BADMINTON NEWS - Austrian prosecutors announced Thursday that members of Russia's biathlon team are being investigated over alleged doping offences at the 2017 World Championships in the Austrian town of Hochfilzen.
Russian biathletes were among those disqualified from the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 for being part of a state-sponsored doping programme. The scandal led directly to the publication of the McLaren report, which found that from 2011 to 2015 more than 1,000 Russian athletes across several sports benefited from a cover-up, and left a huge shadow hanging over Russian sport.
On Thursday, anti-corruption prosecutors confirmed in a statement that preliminary proceedings have been launched against five biathletes for "serious deception in connection with doping" at last year's championships. Five support staff would also be probed for "use of forbidden substances or methods for the purpose of doping", prosecutors said. The Russian Biathlon Federation confirmed Austrian police had visited members of the biathlon team - currently in Hochfilzen ahead of this weekend's World Cup event - on Wednesday and had questioned several "Russian athletes and specialists".
"The national team will continue its participation in the World Cup," the federation added in a statement. "The Austrian side has not presented any official document aside from the announcement of the opening of an investigation," federation President Vladimir Drachev said in an emailed comment to AFP. - 'Absurd events' - Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova meanwhile denounced the "absurd events".
Police intervention a day before competition would create "a strange, oppressive and destabilising atmosphere for athletes," she said during a regular briefing. The International Biathlon Union (IBU) said it was "aware of the action taken by the Austrian state authorities in the Russian National Biathlon Team's accommodation in Hochfilzen".
Some of the athletes concerned took to Instagram to react to the accusations. Biathlete Evgeniy Garanichev, who won individual bronze at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, said: "I am on the list of people suspected of breaking anti-doping rules!! Another scandal!!! We are clean...
" Alexander Loginov, who served a two-year ban for using the banned blood booster EPO from November 2014 to November 2016, said in a post on Thursday that "yesterday, I - and others - were accused of some sort of plot to do with blood transfusions".
"Apparently, for a Russian athlete to be able to compete, it's not enough to pass anti-doping tests," Loginov said. Earlier this year the IBU's president Anders Besseberg and its general secretary Nicole Resch faced accusations that they helped cover up Russian doping in the Winter Olympic sport combining cross-country skiing and shooting.
Besseberg stepped down in April and was replaced by Swede Olle Dahlin in September. Earlier this month Czech biathlon chief Jiri Hamza said he and his family had been threatened by Russian officials in an attempt to "silence" him on the issue of doping. Hamza became the first vice-president of the IBU after Besseberg's resignation.