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World Biathlon Chief Resigns Amid Charges Of Taking Russian Bribes


Biathlon's world governing body has said that its president is stepping down amid allegations that he and other union officials took some $300,000 in bribes to cover up doping by Russian athletes.

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) said on April 12 that Anders Besseberg, 72, the only president in the winter sports organization's 25-year history, "is stepping down from his position as long as the investigation is ongoing."

The IBU's executive board also suspended General Secretary Nicole Resch, 42, a day after announcing she had taken a leave of absence.

The departure of top officials in the Olympic sport of biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and shooting, came amid a series of police raids on IBU offices in Europe.

Austrian authorities this week raided the union's headquarters in Salzburg while prosecutors elsewhere raided offices in Norway and Germany and said they are investigating allegations of doping, fraud, and bribery.

The Austian prosecutors said in a statement that they were specifically investigating Beeseberg, Resch, and athletes and officials from Russia's biathlon team in connection with competitions the took place as recently as last year.

The Austrian authorities said they were investigating allegations that "bribes of $300,000 were promised and/or accepted" by IBU officials as well as allegations that the union did not react to suspicions of doping by Russian athletes "in an appropriate manner."

The allegations center on competitions that took place during the 2017 biathlon World Cup in Austria as well as activities dating back to 2012, prosecutors said.

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), areas of concern include "Besseberg's unwavering support of Russian interests" and "the initial awarding of the 2021 world championships to Russia."

The 2021 world championships were awarded to the city of Tyumen in Siberia in 2016 despite a burgeoning scandal over doping in Russian sports at the time.

Under pressure from WADA and other anti-doping authorities, the IBU eventually stripped Russia of the 2021 championships.

Whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory who now lives in exile in the United States, cooperated in the latest investigation, his lawyers said.

Hours after IBU chief Besseberg stepped down, Russia said that a double Olympic gold medalist was under investigation for suspicious blood data.

The head of the Russian Biathlon Union, Aleksandr Kravtsov, told Russian state news agencies on April 12 that Yevgeny Ustyugov, who won two gold medals at the 2010 Olympics, was under investigation for having an "abnormal biological passport."

Kravtsov said the IBU had informed him of the case last year. He said that Ustyugov, who retired in 2014, had natural abnormalities in his blood. It wasn't clear whether his case was linked to the criminal investigation, or why it emerged so long after Ustyugov retired.

Russian doping scandals have shaken the sport of biathlon for several years. Numerous Russian athletes, including Olympic medalists, have been banned for doping since 2015.

The U.S., Canadian, and Czech teams all boycotted last month's World Cup finals after the IBU refused to move the event from Russia.

At the 2017 world championships -- which is now the focus of the Austrian investigation -- French athlete Martin Fourcade walked out of a post-race awards ceremony following a dispute with Aleksandr Loginov, a Russian who had recently returned to the sport from a doping ban.

With reporting by AFP, Le Monde, AP, and Reuters
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