Russian doping: corruption and unethical conduct by ex biathlon boss

Dozens of Russian athletes have been tested positive for meldonium which was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) from this year. (Sputnik Photo)
(Sputnik Photo)

dpa/GNA – Former biathlon chief Anders Besseberg was rewarded with prostitutes and hunting trips as he acted under “improper Russian influence” to cover up doping cases in his sport in a decade-long scandal, according to an external report published on Thursday.

The governing body IBU said former president Besseberg and former IBU secretary general Nicole Resch “have cases to answer for breach of the IBU’s rules, based on their apparent protection of Russian interests, particularly in the anti-doping context, without good justification,” from 2008-2018.

In a redacted version of the report published by an Independent External Review Commission (ERC), it spoke of “systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top of the IBU.”

It was suggested that Besseberg enjoyed “extensive provision of favours by the Russians … particularly in the form of free hunting trips and the services of prostitutes.”

Austrian and Norwegian criminal authorities also have evidence sufficient to warrant setting up a joint taskforce to investigate bribery allegations against Besseberg, the report said.

Russia have been involved in doping scandals for years including a state-sponsored scheme which corrupted the home Winter Olympics of Sochi 2014. The country’s athletics body also remains suspended because of doping and corruption and Russia can’t compete as a nation at the Tokyo 2021 and Beijing 2022 Olympics.

Norway’s Besseberg and the German Resch stepped down in 2018 amid a criminal investigation on the issue.

The ERC was set up by request of the new IBU leadership under president Olle Dahlin and gathered evidence for their 220-page report through interviews and evidence gathered by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which said it started looking into the issue in 2016 as part of its Russia probe.

The report spoke of “evidence of systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top of the IBU … by a president (Anders Besseberg, IBU President 1993 to 2018) who appears, in the view of the Commission, to have had no regard for ethical values and no real interest in protecting the sport from cheating.”

It highlighted a “complete lack of basic governance safeguards that left integrity decisions in the sole hands of the President and his allies on the IBU Executive Board.

“The pattern of corrupt and unethical decision-making was apparent long before evidence of an institutionalised doping conspiracy in Russia started to emerge in 2014 and 2015, but it was clearly exposed by Mr Besseberg’s woeful response to that evidence, even as it turned inexorably from a trickle to a stream to a torrent,” it said.

“In the Commission’s view Mr Besseberg’s support for Russian interests went well beyond that general concern, and indeed well beyond all rational bounds.”

Besseberg and Resch have protested their innocence and are yet to be charged. The commission said they were not available to answer its questions, with Besseberg citing the criminal probe and Resch health reasons.

It is now up to the IBU Interity Unit whether to launch federation proceedings.

“The allegations featured in this report are abhorrent to all who care about sport integrity,” WADA president Witold Banka said.

“This is another success for WADA’s intelligence and investigation team and its policy of collaboration with law enforcement and other stakeholders that are committed to doping-free sport.”

Dahlin said “we are shocked by the wrongdoing” but added that owing to reforms “we now have the safeguards in place to ensure this kind of wrongdoing does not happen again.”

Norwegian bithlon supremo Arne Horten said that “we are first and foremost shaken by the content that appears in the report” and that “we naturally strongly dissociate ourselves from this.”

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