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U.S., Czech Biathlon Teams To Boycott Event In Russia

Biathletes competing at a recent World Cup event

U.S. and Czech teams will boycott an International Biathlon Union event scheduled next month in a Russian city because of concern that Russia has not remedied doping violations that led to its ban at the Olympics, the athletes' associations said on February 23.

The prestigious final event of the biathlon season is due to be held in Tyumen, Russia on March 19-26.

Russia was banned from competing under its own flag at the Winter Olympics in South Korea over allegations of state-sponsored doping which it continues to deny, leading athletes from many countries to express 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," said a statement from the U.S. national biathlon association.

"We think Russia should not host international events, given the current situation," Jiri Hamza, head of the Czech Biathlon Union, was quoted as saying in Czech media.

"We have taken a certain stance, with some sacrifices, and it would be wrong to give it up now," Hamza told Czech reporters at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The U.S. statement, issued by U.S. Biathlon Association President Max Cobb, cited Russia as being out of compliance with the World Anti-Doping Authority code, threats of physical harm to foreign biathletes, and doping sanctions against Russian athletes as the reasons for his 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," he said.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters