Canada boycotts Russian biathlon races in 2018

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Canada became the first nation to officially boycott a biathlon world cup race in Russia, as officials pressure the International Biathlon Union to take a tougher stance on state-sponsored doping.

Andy Holmwood, Biathlon Canada executive director, said the IBU’s response to the Russian doping scandal has been tepid at best and he wants to see more teeth in sanctions. Allowing Russia to host more events, including the 2019 world championships, runs contrary to their rhetoric, Holmwood said.

“The statement they (IBU) released is pretty weak. Russia has been provisionally sanctioned, so they can’t vote at congress. It’s an administrative penalty … and it’s something they can reverse in congress,” Holmwood said.

Russian athletes are still participating in biathlon world cup and IBU Cup races despite the IOC decision to ban them from the 2018 Winter Olympics, while failing to acknowledge any wrongdoing despite evidence of state-sponsored doping outlined in the McLaren Report, and with continuous non-compliance to anti-doping regulations.

In a letter to Nicole Resch and Anders Besseberg of the IBU, Biathlon Canada president Murray Wylie said there is still a lack of integrity surrounding Russia’s anti-doping program, and it is inconsistent with the organization’s “efforts to protect clean athletes.”

The IBU stated it will follow the IOC’s lead, which will allow athletes to compete as ‘neutral athletes from Russia.’

Holmwood said that’s not enough.

“I’d like to see the IBU take a stronger approach on PyeongChang. Our fear is to have Russians compete there who also competed in Sochi,” Holmwood said.

Holmwood added evidence has only increased with the publication of the McLaren report, but the reaction has not.

“We are in exactly the same place we were a year ago, only we know a lot more. The evidence in the McLaren report is as bad as we thought, and even worse in some cases,” Holmwood said.

Other nations have privately expressed their support for Canada’s letter, but have yet to offer public support.

Canada has sent smaller teams to Russia in years past, and Nathan Smith has landed on the podium at the venue.

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