5 January 2021

Investigation into withdrawals from Russian biathlon event*

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) is understood to be investigating the Izhevsk Rifle competition, held over the Christmas period, due to allegations that the the arrival of doping control officers (DCOs) prompted mass withdrawals. It is understood that after DCOs turned up to test the women, who competed from 24-27 December in Tchaikovsky (Чайковском), junior athletes withdrew from competition.

The withdrawals were highlighted by Nikolai Pankratov (Николай Панкратов), in a comment to news that 20 year old Russian biathlete Victoria Konovalova (Викторию Коновалову) had been sanctioned with a four year ban. Konovalova’s ban was unrelated to the Izhevsk Rifle competition as it runs from 15 December 2020, before the competition took place. Konovalova is a pupil of the Krasnoyarsk Biathlon Academy and competes for the Krasnoyarsk team, and an investigation into her ADRV was launched by the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU).

‘Amazing events took place at the Izhevsk Rifle competition’, wrote Pankratov in the comments section on this article. ‘In Tchaikovsky, after the women were summoned for doping control after the last sprint, all Khanty juniors withdrew. And the next day, in Izhevsk after the men were summoned for doping control, all Tyumen juniors withdrew. What was it? A paradox? A coincidence?’

The women’s Izhevsk Rifle competition was held from 24-27 in Tchaikovsky, around 30km from Izhevsk, whilst the men’s competition took place from 25-28 December in Izhevsk. An investigation by AllSport alleged that the women’s sprint took place after the junior sprint. If this is accurate, it would mean that the juniors couldn’t have withdrawn after the women’s sprint. However, Pankratov’s comment may have been referring to the appearance of DCOs at the competition, rather than when doping control actually took place.

AllSport reports that out of 69 girls who entered the junior sprint on 27 December, 12 didn’t start and two didn’t finish. Of 88 entrants to the men’s junior race on 28 December, only 21 actually competed. “RUSADA conducted testing at the Izhevsk Rifle competition”, its Director of Communications, Maria Markova (Мария Маркова), told AllSport. “The mass withdrawal of athletes was noted and transferred to the investigations department”.

In January 2018, the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) launched a similar investigation after the mass withdrawal of athletes from a regional Siberian championship. It is understood that a two year ban issued to junior sprinter Daria Tvorogova (Дарья Творогов) was a result of this.

At the end of November, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced that an External Review Commission (ERC) tasked with investigating allegations of past wrongdoing by IBU officials found that there was a conspiracy to cover up eight Russian doping cases. The draft Report, which is over 200 pages long, was being finalised and its expected publication date was December last year.

* The RBU argues that a number of factors caused the mass withdrawals, including loss of the event’s status as a junior World and European Championship qualifying event, Covid-19, and insufficient preparation.

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