Just over a week before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the sport of biathlon has been thrust into the spotlight. Unfortunately for fans of the sport, it is the result of four failed doping tests that are casting the sport and its athletes in a negative light.
Two days ago, biathlon sites began to report that the IBU had provisionally suspended three athletes after their “A” samples failed doping tests. These tests were taken during the Chistmas break between IBU World Cup 3 in Annecy and IBU World Cup 4 in Oberhof. The reports noted that the IBU President had informed the International Olympic Committee of these results, which involved two Russian athletes and one Lithuanian athlete.
Yesterday the IBU confirmed that the athletes have been provisionally suspended until the results of testing on their “B” samples is completed. This should be completed before the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.
Under the World and IBU anti-doping codes, athletes whose “A” samples fail a doping test have the right to have their “B” samples tested, and if the “B” samples pass then there is no doping violation. At this point, the athletes must be considered innocent until proven guilty by their “B” sample.
While the IBU news release states that it will not release any names in order to protect the personal rights of the athletes, the nationalities of the athletes was already known and the identity of one athlete was leaked, causing the athlete to withdraw from their team pending the outcome of the testing.
Whether or not these athletes will be found guilty of an anti-doping violation or not, it is unfortunate that biathlon is now the subject of speculation and suspicion.
Is it better that the athletes in question have been caught before the Olympics? Does this episode show that the anti-doping system works? Or, if their “B” samples pass the doping test, has it been unfair to these 3 athletes, and by association all biathletes, that the failure of the “A” samples was leaked?
Everyone is now awaiting the results of the “B” samples to support their point of view. No matter what the results are, one thing is certain; the communications process and the leaking of information is sure to be criticized, and rightly so.