Russia loses 2021 biathlon worlds over doping allegations

FIEBERBRUNN, Austria (AP) The International Biathlon Union announced Wednesday that the Russian city of Tyumen will no longer host the 2021 world championships, in the wake of alleged state-sponsored doping around the time of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Following an extraordinary congress on the eve of the world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, the sport's governing body said it had asked the Russian federation to hand back the hosting rights for the 2021 worlds by Feb. 24.

''Otherwise, the (IBU executive board) has decided to annul the award of the IBU WCH 2021 to Tyumen,'' the union said in a statement.

The president of the Russian federation, Alexander Kravtsov, told press agency TASS that it would not give up the hosting rights voluntarily and that his federation was ''ready to appeal the decision.''

The IBU announcement to move its marquee event from Russia was not unexpected.

Shortly after Tyumen was selected in September last year, IBU President Anders Besseberg told The Associated Press ''it's possible without problem'' to strip the Siberian venue of the event if more Russian doping infringements surfaced after revelations of alleged state-backed doping at the Sochi Games.

The IBU Congress had chosen Tyumen to host the competition despite an IOC recommendation to all winter sports federations to ''freeze their preparations for major events in Russia'' and to find host cities in other countries.

Tyumen gained an absolute majority in the first round of voting, beating rival bids from Pokljuka in Slovenia and Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic.

Officials from several national biathlon federations, including those of the United States, Canada and Norway, publicly criticized the choice of a Russian venue, saying it would send the wrong signal in the wake of a report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren that alleged widespread state-backed doping.

A new host for the 2021 worlds will be chosen next year.

Earlier, two other IBU events scheduled for Russia this season were also relocated - the junior world championships from Ostrov to Brezno-Osrblie in Slovakia, and a World Cup event from Tyumen to Kontiolahti in Finland.

In a separate decision, the IBU also said it would not be tightening its anti-doping regulations immediately, despite a petition signed by more than 150 biathletes and coaches last month.

Last month, many biathletes and coaches signed a petition, calling on the IBU to step up its efforts against doping. They asked for longer bans of up to eight years, higher fines of up to $1 million, and the reduction of start places for national federations with athletes caught doping.

In their letter, which has been obtained by the AP, the biathletes say they ''are frustrated that ... the IBU has not strengthened the rules enough to prevent a doping scandal of the magnitude described in the McLaren Report from happening.''

They say ''it is now undeniably clear that our current IBU Rules are and were insufficient to deter doping.''

On Wednesday, the IBU said it could not impose longer bans on biathletes caught doping as the sport's anti-doping rules have to comply with the WADA code.

As for the calls for higher fines and reduced starting spots, the IBU said it will set up a working group to prepare new rules, which could take effect at the start of the 2017-18 season.

There have been previous calls on the IBU for harsher treatment of doping infringements, most notably in 2009 when 20 national federations signed a petition demanding tougher punishments for cases of systematic doping.