By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has lost two World Cup sporting events it was due to host amid a growing concern at the extent of the country’s doping program, highlighted in the McLaren report.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU) said on Thursday that Russia had pulled out of hosting a World Cup meeting in Tyumen in March, while the International Skating Union (ISU) said it had stripped Russia of a speed skating event scheduled for Chelyabinsk in the same month.
Both decisions were made amid mounting pressure to remove sporting events from Russia after the McLaren report laid bare the extent to which Russian sport was affected by an “institutional conspiracy” of doping.
The second part of the report, compiled by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren, was published earlier this month and said more than 1,000 Russian athletes in more than 30 sports were involved.
The IBU said in a statement that the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) had “given back to the IBU” the World Cup meeting and the junior world championships, earmarked for Ostrov.
“This is a first important step by the Russian Biathlon Union to show to the IBU and to the world of sport that the current situation is taken very seriously,” IBU President Anders Besseberg said in a statement following an extraordinary meeting of the organization’s executive board.
“This will now allow the international biathlon family to focus on biathlon during these events.”
Britain had said on Wednesday that it planned to boycott the Tyumen event.
The RBU said in a statement that the meeting should take place “in a holiday atmosphere and not under a cloud of suspicion.”
It added: “We should only be punished if our guilt can be properly proved. We hope that in the near future big biathlon can return to Russia.”
The ISU said its council had decided to move a World Cup speed skating meeting that was due to be held from March 10-12 in order to ensure the focus of the event was on the sport and not on “accusations and controversies”.
It said in a statement: “The council also took into account the (International Olympic Committee)… recommendation to all International Olympic Winter Sports federations to freeze their preparations for major events in Russia, such as world championships, World Cups or other major international competitions under their responsibility, and to actively look for alternative organizers.”
The new venues for both events have yet to be announced.
(Writing by Neville Dalton; Editing by Toby Davis)