PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - The U.S. team will boycott the season’s final International Biathlon Union (IBU) event next month in Tyumen, Russia amid continuing concerns about the lack of a functioning anti-doping agency there, the U.S. national biathlon association has said.
With Russia banned from competing under its own flag at the Winter Olympics following allegations of state-sponsored doping, biathletes from several countries have expressed serious reservations about travelling there to compete.
“The IBU’s recent decision to move forward with the World Cup Final in Tyumen, Russia is completely unacceptable. In support of clean sport and our own physical safety, we cannot in good conscience participate,” the statement form the American team said.
Swedish biathlete Sebastian Samuelsson received threats on social media following a Reuters interview in which he said that he hoped his country would also boycott the event.
The American statement, sent by U.S. Biathlon Association President and Chief Executive Max Cobb, cited Russia being out of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) code, threats of physical harm and doping sanctions against Russian athletes as the reasons for their decision.
“We fully support the right of clean Russian athletes to compete and share the opinion that Russia should be eligible to host IBU World Cups in the future; but only after they have shown a meaningful commitment to rectifying the doping culture which has been shown to exist there,” the statement concluded.
The prestigious final event of the season is due to be held in Tyumen from March 19-26.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; editing by Sudipto Ganguly