Paris (France) (AFP) – Biathlon’s world governing body said Thursday that its president is 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,” the International Biathlon Union 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 to AFP 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 Thursday following their raid on IBU headquarters in Salzburg this week that are investigating possible doping, fraud and bribery.
In their sights are IBU staff and athletes and officials from Russia’s biathlon team, prosectors 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 as well as in Germany as part of the enquiry.
The allegations centre on the 2017 biathlon world cup in Hochfilzen, Austria as well as activities date 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.
Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory now living in exile in the United States, cooperated in the latest investigation, his lawyer told AFP.
To hide cases of doping amongst 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 has requested a leave of absence.
According to Le Monde, both Besseberg, 72, and Resch, 42, were targeted “successfully” by Russia.