Biathlon boss linked to corruption, prostitutes and hunting parties

Keyvan NARAGHI
·4-min read

Former biathlon boss Anders Besseberg was accused Thursday of covering up Russian doping cases in exchange for favours in a damning independent report which cites corruption, prostitutes and hunting parties.

The external review board of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) described in detail how the Norwegian, who was president of the federation from 1992 to 2018, served the Russians for many years, with the help of former IBU secretary general Nicole Resch.

According to the report, Besseberg acted under "improper" Russian influence which may "be inferred from his consistent and implacable favouring of Russian interests, even when doing so took him well over the line of propriety into clear breach of his duties as IBU President."

It claims the Norwegian, now 74, received "between $200,000 and $300,000 in bribes to ensure his protection of Russian interests" and that he was invited to all-expenses paid hunting parties in Russia and was supplied with prostitutes.

The report said it had "evidence of systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top of the IBU for a decade (2008 to 2018) and more, by a president who appears... to have had no regard for ethical values and no real interest in protecting the sport from cheating."

The report acknowledged that while "each of them has a case to answer", Besseberg and Resch "both deny all wrongdoing", adding that the criminal proceedings have not resulted in any formal charges, "let alone any convictions".

Neither Besseberg nor Resch gave evidence directly to the investigation.

- 'Notorious' -

The investigation, which looked into more than 70,000 documents, was launched in 2018 by Olle Dahlin who took over as head of the IBU when Besseberg resigned after the first revelations of the case and a report from the the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The document, which has been released in redacted form, runs to over 200 pages and is based on the testimonies of whistleblowers, the WADA report and searches carried out by the Austrian and Norwegian police forces.

It is rich in detail of the alleged transgressions, not least in the salacious suggestions that the Russians supplied Besseberg with prostitutes.

"It was notorious within IBU circles that Mr Besseberg's hosts would often provide him with the services of a young, female 'interpreter' when he visited Russia," the report said.

In return, he directly concealed several cases of doping.

He also lobbied intensely to ensure the participation of Russian athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang -- even though they were banned by the IOC -- and pushed hard in September 2016 to award the 2021 world championships to Tyumen in Siberia, when Russia's role in the institutionalised doping scandal, which followed the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, had already come to light.

Former IBU secretary general Resch was allegedly "offered" a jewelry box by Alexander Tikhonov, who was president of the Russian federation and vice-president of the IBU, "to induce her not to pursue suspected doping by Russian biathletes in 2008/2009".

- Compliance -

An indication of her compliance towards the Russians was her failure to follow the usual protocols after the revelation at the 2014 Olympics of abnormalities in the blood of biathlete Evgeny Ustyugov, who was busted for doping and stripped of all his titles between 2010 and 2014.

Resch also allegedly tried to hush up an investigation after the discovery of a syringe containing EPO.

The report is now in the hands of the Biathlon Integrity Unit, which alone has the power to take disciplinary action.

"We are shocked by the reprehensible acts which have been described," said current IBU president Dahlin in a statement.

"Thanks to the creation of the Integrity Unit and to the numerous governance reforms that we introduced over the past two years, we now have the guarantees that these wrong doings will not happen again."

WADA has also "welcomed" the report.

"We are pleased that our work has contributed to the investigation," said WADA President Witold Banka.

"The allegations presented in this report are appalling to all who care about the integrity of the sport.

"However, it is important to recognise that the IBU has taken important steps in the wake of this scandal to strengthen the integrity of its anti-doping programme."

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