Just when you are getting ready for the new season with interviews and posts about biathlon –the sport and the sportspeople – BOOM! the IBU delegates vote Tyumen as host of the World Championships in 2021. So what you may ask. Well unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months Russia have got themselves into a little bit of trouble.
With the publication of the McLaren Report into state sponsored doping by the Russians at the Sochi Olympics you would think most sports federations would avoid them like the plague. Not so the IBU. We have a World Cup round there in March, The Youth/Junior World Championships 2017 in Ostrov and now the World Championships in Tyumen in 2021.
To be fair all of these events were organised before the McLaren Report was published except the awarding of the World Championships to Tyumen which was voted on this past weekend at the IBU Congress.
Many people including Erland Slokvik, President of Norwegian Biathlon, and Canadian coach Roddy Ward have been vocal in their amazement at this decision and it does seem a strange one. There are many questions that need answers. For example why was Tyumen allowed to continue as a candidate after the IOC actively discouraged Individual Sports Federations from holding future events in Russia and to look for alternative hosts. Well it’s because they gave the green light to any event in which the bidding process had already begun.
I don’t have so much of a problem with this as the bid from Tyumen was started a long time ago and I am sure a lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into it. However there were another two candidates who did the same. Pokljuka and Nove Mesto were also competing to host in 2021.
So why then did the delegates decide to choose a Russian host? A question I am not sure I can answer with any certainty but here are some of the reasons put forward so far. Out of a possible 49 votes Tyumen won 25 and it is speculated that they came from the smaller Asian nations and the old Eastern Block countries. It is suggested that these countries maybe aren’t as concerned about Russia’s issues as the Western countries are.
Russia is a huge biathlon nation. It’s no coincidence that the three languages of the IBU are English, Germany and Russian. The sport is incredibly well supported there and with such popularity of course comes money.
It doesn’t surprise me that many are angry at the Tyumen decision. It did surprise me however who was not. The biathletes! Their reactions range from silence to congratulations on the winning bid. It made me wonder why when many biathletes speak out against anti-doping they would show support for an event in a country whose anti-doping agency has been declared unfit for purpose. Tyumen hosts a very lucrative end of season “Race of Champions”…
Apart from all the World Championships controversy we are still waiting to hear if any action will be taken against Russia. The McLaren Report alleges that 10 samples from biathletes were tampered with in Sochi. One of the team, Alexander Loginov, is already serving a suspension for doping but as yet we have heard nothing about any other potential positive samples. The Russians had a team of 12 in Sochi.
Yesterday IBU President Anders Besseberg stated that Tyumen could possibly lose the World Championships if these retested samples come back positive. The IBU are not doing themselves any favours in it’s handling of both these situations. The IPC provides a good example and an interesting contrast.
All in all it’s an unsavoury mess and doesn’t reflect well on any of the parties involved. The fans don’t want to be talking and reading about this. They want to be getting excited for a new season and planning what World Cup round to go and thinking about who is going to do well. They do not want to watch their sport become mired in controversy. Yes the fans, remember us? It would be nice if someone would occasionally!
It’s hard to see any of this being resolved anytime soon and I imagine it won’t end satisfactorily for anyone. However I was thinking if I start doping now, in 5 years’ time I could maybe win a gold medal in Tyumen and not get got caught……just a thought!