An investigation found that Russian athletes were involved in a state-run doping system. USA TODAY Sports
Facing boycotts from one nation and the possible withdrawal of other countries from competition, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation on Tuesday moved its upcoming world championships from Sochi, Russia.
American athletes were among those considering of opting to boycott the February event at the Sanki Sliding Center in light of further revelations about the extent of widespread and state-sponsored doping in Russia last week.
In announcing its decision, the IBSF said “the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts” of the Russian organizers.
“I am beyond excited,” said American bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic medalist. “It shows that they’re not accepting the violations that have occurred and they’re really making strides to protect clean athletes.”
The Latvian skeleton team, led by two-time Olympic silver medalist Martin Dukurs, announced Sunday that it would boycott the event if it were held in Sochi.
The Korean Bobsleigh & Ski Federation told Reuters that its tentative decision was not to compete.
American athletes were considering a boycott and have voiced concerns about the safety and the security around their drug samples.
The IBSF is now working to find a replacement host.
“I didn’t care what track it was. I’d love if it wasn’t in Russia,” said Meyers Taylor. “We could go to Nagano, Japan, at this point, but as long as it wasn’t in Russia and as long as we felt safe.”
Following the first part of the McLaren report in July, the International Olympic Committee instituted provisional measures that Olympic winter sports federations “freeze their preparations for major events in Russia” and look for other organizers.
The International Biathlon Union last month awarded its 2021 world championships to Russia, a decision that the World Anti-Doping Agency has asked the federation to explain. Because the Russian Anti-Doping Agency remains out of compliance, WADA could declare the IBU non-compliant with the code.
A second report released Friday by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren gave more details on widespread and state-sponsored doping in Russia for a period of four years that included the Sochi Olympics.
While not naming individual athletes, McLaren’s report found that 15 Russians who claimed medals in the Sochi Olympics had their samples tampered with in an effort to avoid having positive drug tests.
Meyers Taylor said the athletes spoke with USA Bobsled & Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, who is also the IBSF’s vice president of sport.
In a statement, Steele said the IBSF’s decision “allows our coaches and athletes to focus on sliding and competing at their best.”
While the change leaves athletes short time to prepare for a new track in February, Meyers Taylor said the IBSF’s decision was worth it to athletes.
“At this point, for me as a pilot, I don’t even care. I’ll figure out how to drive a track,” she said. “The biggest thing was competing in an environment we thought was safe.”