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Biathlon Report Outlines Corruption, Russian Cover-ups

Biathlon Report Outlines Corruption, Russian Cover-ups

A report commissioned by the International Biathlon Union stated Thursday there is evidence of systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top" of the sport's governing body, especially in protecting Russia on doping issues.

SALZBURG, Austria: A report commissioned by the International Biathlon Union stated Thursday there is evidence of systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top” of the sport’s governing body, especially in protecting Russia on doping issues.

The report, published in a redacted version, accuses former IBU president Anders Besseberg of intensely lobbying for Russia’s interests and showing little interest in pursuing doping cases which might embarrass the country.

It also said Besseberg, who ran the sport for 25 years, was taken on hunting and fishing trips for free in Russia and had IBU employees transport his trophies. The report cites evidence from a police investigation that Besseberg admitted that he received the service of a prostitute while staying in Moscow, which he believed had been paid for by a third party.

The commission which wrote the report said Besseberg appears, in the view of the Commission, to have had no regard for ethical values and no real interest in protecting the sport from cheating,” and that he did only the absolute minimum on anti-doping issues.

The report accuses the IBU leadership of repeated failures to even look for evidence in Russian doping cases. With regard to blood doping, the report says a cover-up was impossible because the athletes profiles hadnt been checked for signs of doping.

There is testimony from Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who said he overheard a conversation between two Russian officials about a sum of $200,000 to $300,000 which was supposedly paid to Besseberg and that Russia had leverage over Besseberg. The commission did not have access to bank account data, but said Norwegian authorities were investigating whether Besseberg illicitly received money or other benefits.

Former IBU general secretary Nicole Resch is accused of having failed to request extra testing of Russian athlete Evgeny Ustyugov at the doping-tainted 2014 Sochi Olympics after indications of highly abnormal values in his blood. Ustyugov went on to win a gold medal but was stripped of the honor last year after a ban over a separate allegation of past steroid use.

The report also said Resch offered undercover help with doping appeals by three Russians and tried to influence the chair of an anti-doping panel considering a case the IBU had brought against another Russian.

Besseberg is also accused of failing to act on allegations of bribery by Russian officials, both when they supposedly tried to buy votes at an IBU congress and when Resch said she had been offered a jewelry box by one of them in 2008 or 2009 when doping cases were being investigated.

Both Besseberg and Resch stepped down from their posts in 2018, shortly after a raid on the IBU’s headquarters by Austrian police. Neither has been charged or convicted of a crime. The report said Besseberg declined to answer questions while a criminal investigation into his conduct remains open, and that Resch said she couldn’t be interviewed for health reasons.

The allegations featured in this report are abhorrent to all who care about sport integrity, World Anti-Doping Agency president Witold Banka said in a statement. “However, it is to the credit of the IBU that in the wake of this scandal, it has taken significant steps to enhance the integrity of its anti-doping program.

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first published:January 28, 2021, 15:09 IST