Participants talk before the start of the World Anti-Doping Agency symposium for Anti-Doping Organisations in Lausanne. File picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE
Participants talk before the start of the World Anti-Doping Agency symposium for Anti-Doping Organisations in Lausanne. File picture: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE

Paris — The International Biathlon Union (IBU) said on Thursday that its president was stepping down after raids in Austria and Norway over allegations that officials took bribes to cover up Russian doping.

Anders Besseberg "has informed the IBU executive board that he is stepping down from his position as long as the investigation is ongoing," biathlon’s world governing body said.

According to a damning World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) assessment reported by France’s Le Monde, the IBU did "everything so that no proceedings would be opened against the Russians" over doping.

Wada confirmed on Wednesday that it had conducted "an investigation into the activities of the IBU … related to doping", but gave no further details.

Austrian prosecutors said on Thursday that following their raid on IBU headquarters in Salzburg this week, they were investigating possible doping, fraud and bribery.

In their sights are IBU staff and athletes and officials from Russia’s biathlon team, prosecutors said.

The allegations include that possible cases of doping "were not reacted to in an appropriate manner" and that "bribes of $300,000 were promised and/or accepted", a statement said.

It added that in addition to Austria, other raids took place in Norway and in Germany as part of the inquiry.

The allegations centre on the 2017 biathlon world cup in Hochfilzen, Austria as well as activities dating back to 2012, prosecutors said.

According to Wada, areas of concern included fears over "biological passports", "Besseberg’s unwavering support of Russian interests" and "the initial awarding of the 2021 world championships to Russia".

The world championships of 2021 were awarded in 2016 to Tyumen in Siberia despite the scandal of state-backed Russian doping from 2011 to 2015 having already been revealed.

Under pressure, notably from Wada, the IBU eventually stripped Russia of the 2021 championships.

Whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s antidoping laboratory now living in exile in the US, co-operated in the latest investigation, his lawyer said.

To hide cases of doping among Russian biathletes, the IBU sent suspicious profiles to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), and "ensured that doped Russian athletes could not be spotted", Rodchenkov told investigators, according to Le Monde.

On Wednesday the IBU said that its general secretary, Nicole Resch, had requested a leave of absence.

According to Le Monde, both Besseberg and Resch were targetted "successfully" by Russia.

AFP

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