March 6, 2018 / 8:42 PM / in a year

Biathlon: Olympic champion Samuelsson to boycott Russian event

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Olympic biathlon champion Sebastian Samuelsson has told Reuters he will boycott the final World Cup event of the year in Russia over continuing concerns about the country’s anti-doping record.

FILE PHOTO - Medals Ceremony - Biathlon - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men's 12,5 km Pursuit - Medals Plaza - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 13, 2018 - Silver medalist Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden on the podium. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

The 20-year-old, who won Olympic gold in the team relay and silver in the 12.5km pursuit, said he does not want to return to Russia until the country’s anti-doping agency RUSADA has been given the green light by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

“As soon as RUSADA has been approved again by WADA, there’s no problem having competition there,” Samuelsson said.

“I believe it’s possible, but they have to look at themselves, realise what they have done and really want to solve the problem. My understanding at the moment is that they don’t believe that they have done much wrong.”

RUSADA was declared non-compliant by WADA amid allegations of state-sponsored doping, which Moscow denies, and the systematic violation of anti-doping rules.

Russia’s Olympic Committee was banned from sending a team to the Pyeongchang Winter Games and Russian athletes who participated had to pass strict checks and compete under a neutral flag.

The decision by the International Biathlon Union (IBU) to go ahead with the last World Cup event of the year in Tyumen, Russia from March 20-25 was met with a storm of criticism, and the U.S. biathlon team has announced that it will not take part.

Following a triumphant homecoming to Ostersund, Samuelsson has also decided not to travel to Russia and he is highly critical of the sport’s governing body and how they have handled the issue of RUSADA’s non-compliance.

“The big problem is that the IBU doesn’t take it seriously or do anything about this situation that has arisen,” he said.

The IBU did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

In a statement on Feb. 14 announcing that the World Cup event would go ahead in Russia as originally planned, the IBU said: “The IOC (International Olympic Committee) had no concerns that all the competitions awarded to Russia before RUSADA was officially declared non-compliant were to be organised and conducted according to the initial plans and schedules.”

Samuelsson said athletes needed to stand together to present a unified stance.

“I’m convinced that most of the biathletes at the World Cup level don’t want to go to Russia. It’s about everyone standing together and putting pressure on the IBU, but unfortunately we haven’t been as unified as one had hoped,” Samuelsson said.

“On the other hand, I feel a strong support from both athletes and coaches for this decision,” he added.

Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Toby Davis

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