Austrian police raid international biathlon federation
Biathlon’s governing body was raided by Austrian police on Wednesday in an operation that officials said was linked to a doping investigation.
The World Anti-Doping Agency said the raid of the International Biathlon Union’s headquarters in Salzburg was part of a wider investigation into the IBU by law enforcement in Austria and Norway. WADA told The Associated Press in an e-mailed statement that ”the issue is linked to doping.”
The IBU said the raid was focused on Anders Besseberg, who has been the governing body’s president since it was founded in 1993, and secretary general Nicole Resch, who handles much of the day-to-day running of the sport.
The IBU said Resch ”has requested a leave of absence” because of the investigation, but didn’t comment on Besseberg’s future. Austria’s federal prosecutor’s office for financial crimes and corruption was responsible for the case, police said. The prosecutor did not immediately comment on the investigation.
Biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting, is one of the most popular winter sports in Europe, but it has been shaken by doping scandals involving the Russian team. Some of the sport’s key names have called for the IBU to take stronger action against Russia, while nations including the United States and Canada boycotted a World Cup round in Russia last month.
The investigation into the IBU was related to testimony given by Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, Besseberg’s wife Wenche Besseberg told the AP. Anders Besseberg was not immediately available for comment.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK published an interview with Rodchenkov on Wednesday in which he said the IBU had colluded with Russian anti-doping authorities to cover up suspicious blood tests by the country’s athletes in previous years.
”Dr. Rodchenkov has been cooperating with the investigation of the International Biathlon Union, and with other investigations. We are hopeful that all doping fraud and corruption in international sports is fully exposed, and we will continue to work diligently to make that a reality,” Rodchenkov’s lawyer Jim Walden said in a statement.
Several Russian athletes have been sanctioned for doping in recent years, including Olympic medalists from the 2014 Sochi Games, where Russia has been accused of operating a doping scheme and cover-up.
The IBU and Resch did not respond to questions Wednesday about Rodchenkov’s allegations.
The IBU said its executive board ”is taking the matter (of the raid) extremely seriously and continues to be committed to operating under the highest standards of good governance and transparency.”
Austrian authorities have tried to tackle doping in biathlon before.
Police raided the lodgings of the Kazakhstan team ahead of last year’s world championships after a box containing medical equipment and team documents was left by the roadside. The raid didn’t result in any criminal charges and the team passed drug tests, though a team doctor was provisionally suspended by the IBU.
Associated Press writers Graham Dunbar in Geneva and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.