WADA protests over decision to host World Biathlon Championship in Russia

The women's pursuit at the 2015-2016 IBU World Cup Biathlon 9 in Khanty-Mansiysk.

The women's pursuit at the 2015-2016 IBU World Cup Biathlon 9 in Khanty-Mansiysk.

Alexey Filippov/RIA Novosti
The World Anti-Doping Agency has criticized the decision to hold the 2021 World Biathlon Championship in Russia following the recent scandals involving Russian athletes. However, the international federations are in no hurry to cancel competitions in the country.

The doping scandal involving Russia that seemed to have subsided after the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio has reared its ugly head once again.

The reason for the new tension between the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Russian officials is the news that the 2021 World Biathlon Championship will be held in Tyumen (western Siberia, 1,300 miles east of Moscow). The International Biathlon Union (IBU) made the decision on Sept. 5.

WADA against competitions in Russia

The Russian application was the undisputed leader during the election, securing 25 delegate votes. Competitors Pokljuka in Slovenia and the Czech town of Nove Mesto received 13 and 11 votes, respectively.

The IBU's selection was conditioned by the fact that Tyumen has a modern sports center, Pearl of Siberia, as well as by Russia's recent experience in hosting international competitions: in February 2016 Tyumen held the Biathlon  European  Championships, while another Siberian city, Khanty-Mansiysk, has already hosted the world championships three times: in 2003, 2010 and 2011.

Nevertheless, Tyumen's victory drew a harsh reaction from WADA, which demanded explanations from the IBU on why it had awarded the championship to a country involved in a doping investigation.

International federations should not give the championships to countries whose National Olympic Committee and Anti-doping Organization do not meet universal anti-doping standards, WADA's press service told the Russian R-Sport news agency.

IOC recommendation remained unconsidered

The IBU's decision also contradicts the recommendation made by the International Olympic Committee, which on July 19 called on international federations to refuse to hold international winter sport competitions in Russia. This came after the publication of the McLaren report, in which the head of the independent WADA commission Professor Richard McLaren accused Russian officials of overseeing a state-sponsored doping program during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

However, international federations are not bound by IOC and WADA recommendations and autonomously make decisions concerning world championships and world cup stages, explained sports lawyer Valery Fedoreyev.

"It seems that the IBU did not take into consideration the McLaren report's temporary results. However, after the publication of the report's final version it is possible that the decision will be reviewed. Such a development is even more possible if new facts are revealed,” said Fedoreyev, who noted that it was important how many biathletes would be mentioned in the report.

For now WADA's protest has not forced the IBU to reconsider its decision on Tyumen. IBU head Anders Besseberg stated that the union may deprive Tyumen of the competition only if new facts appear in the McLaren report, said the R-Sport news agency, citing the Norwegian TV channel NRK.

International winter competitions to go ahead as planned

Meanwhile there has been no mass cancelation of international winter sport competitions in Russia, as many had feared. The International Skating Union still intends to hold a stage of the Figure Skating World Cup in Moscow on Nov. 4-6 and a stage of the Speed Skating World Cup on March 10-12 in Chelyabinsk (1,100 miles east of Moscow). And the International Ski Federation plans to hold a stage of the World Ski Jump Championship on Dec. 10-12 in Nizhny Tagil (1,100 miles east of Moscow).

Also, preparations continue for the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, as well as the 2020 Luge World Championship in Sochi.

According to Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, the international federations are not moving their events out of Russia: "For now we don’t have any problems concerning the cancelation of international competitions," he told R-Sport.

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