“I would be ashamed“

Police closing in on biathlete Loginow


“I would be ashamed“

Von Hajo Seppelt, Nick Butler and Joerg Winterfeldt

Austria's criminal investigators are targeting Russian biathletes as the sport’s doping past overshadows the World Cup circuit. It shows how the noose is slowly tightening.

There was something dramatic about the performance. On the eve of the first competition of the Biathlon World Cup in Hochfilzen, the women’s 7.5 km sprint, the Russian delegation was visited by the Austrian police in their hotel. The process was purely a procedural formality, but it shows how the net the investigators have planted is slowly closing.

Contrary to initial reports, however, there was no raid. The Central Public Prosecutor's Office for the Prosecution of Business Crimes and Corruption in Vienna (WKStA), at the request of the ARD Doping Editorial Office, reports that "searches or interrogations" were not carried out.

The investigators only used the stay of the Russians to initiate the next phase of the proceedings. They officially informed the Russians concerned of their status as a person of interest, that an investigation was being conducted against them: "Against five coaches of the Russian biathlon team for the use of prohibited substances or methods for the purpose of doping (§ 22a Abs 1 Z 1 und 2 Anti-Doping-Bundesgesetz 2007) and five athletes of this team for serious fraud in connection with doping (§§ 146, 147 Abs 1a, tw Abs 2 StGB). The period of the offence concerns the 2017 Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen".

Medals could be stripped

As reported in Sportschau earlier this month, the accused also include the biggest Russian star, Anton Shipulin. He is missing at the World Cup in Hochfilzen as he was at the start of the season, officially for sporting reasons. The International Olympic Committee had already not invited Shipulin to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, the whistleblower Grigori Rodchenkow had claimed that the entire Russian biathlon team had been doped at the Games in Sochi.

Shipulin belonged to the relay team that is now threatened with losing its Olympic victory anyway. The IBU is convinced that it has enough doping evidence against Shipulin's relay team mate Yevgeny Ustyugov that it officially brought charges against him a few days ago. In case of a disqualification of the Russians, the second-placed Germans could subsequently receive gold.

Shipulin was allowed to start without restrictions in the biathlon world federation IBU. He won relay gold at the 2017 World Championships, as he did at the Olympic Games in Sochi. “I am extremely angry that this witch hunt continues, which undermines my confidence as a clean athlete not only in the fight against doping, but in our sport as a whole", Shipulin wrote on Instagram, "I have never violated the anti-doping rules. I have always done all doping tests with a clear conscience."

Cover-up attempt

The Russian journalist Dmitry Guberniev had already published a photo of the official "Notification" on his Instagram account on Wednesday evening. According to the photo, the athletes Evgeny Garanichev, Alexander Loginov, Irina Starykh and Alexey Volkov, the former head coach Alexander Kasperovich, the doctors Artem Kryntsilov, Alexander Selyavkin, Evgeny Shutov and the therapist Dmitry Topychkanov are affected, in addition to Shipulin.

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The ARD Doping Editorial Office understands that the biathletes will be free to continue competing on the World Cup circuit, however, until formal charges are opened and a full report is submitted to the IBU. The Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure in paragraph 50 requires that accused persons be informed of a suspicion and of their rights. Then they are entitled to further rights. They can, for example, call in a defence lawyer, inspect files or request the taking of evidence.

Austria's investigators are investigating several allegations. These include a confidential dossier prepared by the chief investigator of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Günter Younger, with allegations of a doping cover-up in the IBU, and a statement by whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov. He had claimed that he had once been asked by one of the Russian biathlon bosses in the course of a positive doping test, by Starykh, whether he could cover up the result.

A whole vial

Accused of doping: Irina Starykh

Blamed for using extreme doses of EPO in the past: Irina Starykh, now part of a police investigation

He had to reject that notion: Starykh, who had also received a doping cocktail specially compiled by him, had not only micro-doped with Epo, which means a small, undetectable dose, but had instead applied a whole vial of the banned blood booster. However, Starykh, like Alexander Loginov, has already served a two-year ban for doping. Both had been proven to be doping in preparation for the games in Sochi.

When Loginov and Starykh came fourth in the mixed relay in Pokljuka at the beginning of the season, the world-class man Martin Fourcade from France made his views clear to ARD. " I already told what I thought about Staryk and Loginov. I have no fear to name them. They know what I think about them. In their place I would be ashamed. But I am not in their place. It seems they enjoy so let them enjoy on their own."

Stand: 13.12.2018, 20:23