Dahlin landslide but time will tell whether biathlon really has changed for the better


Dahlin landslide but time will tell whether biathlon really has changed for the better

Von Nick Butler and Hajo Seppelt

Sweden's Dahlin was elected as just the second ever IBU President following a landslide 39-12 win over his Latvian opponent in a margin far greater than many anticipated.

It followed a tighter vote to extend Russia's suspension from the governing body passed by 29 votes to 20 - with two abstentions. Austria, South Korea, India and Broka's Latvia were viewed as among those to side with the world's largest country in a vote by the raising of hands, but it appeared that the opening of four more doping cases against Russian biathletes the week beforehand had made a difference.

Russian competitors will remain eligible for major competitions but the country is still barred from hosting events while ever the Russian Anti-Doping Agency remains non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Nick Butlers statement on the IBU presidential election Sportschau 07.09.2018 02:05 Min. Verfügbar bis 07.09.2019 Das Erste

A relic of the old guard?

Russia is also at the centre of allegations which ended the 25-year tenure of Besseberg this year. Besseberg and his former secretary general Nicole Resch deny wrongdoing but are suspected of accepting bribes amounting to $300,000 (€243,000) and other benefits in return for a favourable stance towards the country.

The consequent two-horse race for a Presidential successor had been tinged with controversy of its own beforehand. Both candidates had paid lip service to the usual themes of good governance and transparency but were diverted into responding to a wave of rumours and accusations.

The man to lead Biathlon into the future: Sweden’s Olle Dahlin.

The man to lead Biathlon into the future: Sweden’s Olle Dahlin.

Dahlin, a vice-president under Besseberg, was presented by opponents as a relic of the old guard who would be unable to reinvigorate the battered body. He insisted he was breaking no rules when the Swedish Biathlon Federation he heads was accused of paying for smaller nations to travel and attend seminars at the same time as Östersund was successfully bidding for the 2019 World Championships.

Furiously rejected suggestions

Broka, on the other hand, faced criticism over her political affiliations to Latvia's right-wing National Alliance Party as well as her business links to supposedly pro-Russian figures. In 2014 she was appointed Minister of Justice before resigning after the Baltic nation's intelligence service refused to grant her the highest level of classification. "These rumours are used against us by our political opponents before every election," she responded, before criticising how the focus has not been on her actual ideas.

Some of biathlon's most controversial figures were rumoured - without conclusive proof - to be on her side.

Alexander Tikhonov, a top Russian official who had switched to represent Georgia, was alleged to be a key lobbyist before he dramatically veered off piste by attacking both candidates. He then withdrew from attending but furiously rejected suggestions that he was blocked by Russian officials who viewed him as a liability.

Besseberg’s absence

Besseberg, meanwhile, was also locked in a tête-à-tête with former Executive Board colleagues over whether he could travel to Croatia amid claims that he too backed Broka.

He also did not appear, but a letter was read out at the beginning of the Congress explaining his absence. He denied any wrongdoing while criticising "personal interests and ambitions" that have been "more important than doing the best for our sport".

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Yet nobody was complaining about the absence of either figure and, as delegates sipped wine and tapped their feet to Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash at a pre-Congress cocktail reception, it was the basic perseverance of the governing body dominating discussions.

Both candidates had five minutes to present.

Broka used her political charm to speak emotionally about her background and love of sport. Observers said that Dahlin was a less natural public speaker but displayed the competence of a chief executive and businessman as he outlined how precisely he would govern.

Too inexperienced

Charming, but too inexperienced finally: Latvia’s contender Baiba Broka.

Charming, but too inexperienced finally: Latvia’s contender Baiba Broka.

"Trust is what wins you sporting elections," said one delegate and it did seem that the Latvian was a step into the unknown too far. She was spending far less time publicly mixing with voting members and was viewed as too inexperienced in a culture which thrives on familiarity.

Alpine federations representing skiing and biathlon held in a series of impromptu meetings in a bid to reach a collective positions. Broka believes that much of this bloc supported her and that she lost the backing of Russia's allies due to her stance in the earlier vote. "As a lawyer, I couldn't vote for Russia's suspension to be lifted," she insisted. "There is no evidence yet that they have fulfilled all the conditions."

Dahlin's supporters claimed he had been a critic of the Besseberg regime and he will have plenty of allies in his battle to break with the past. Czech Republic's strongly-spoken Jiri Hamza was elected first vice-president after Victor Maigurov - a Russian who had switched to represent Belarus - was one of three late withdrawals.

Austria's Klaus Leistner re-elected

United States's Max Cobb led voting numbers for ordinary Executive Board positions and he was joined by five others including Norway's Tore Boygard and Canada's James Carrabre - all key figures in forcing through the ongoing doping cases against Russian athletes.

The re-election of Austria's Klaus Leistner as vice-president responsible for finance was viewed as a triumph for the older guard. Broka and Maigurov were among those to miss out again, along with every candidate from Asia.

Hajo Seppelt - Biathlon-Verband entscheidet "nicht russlandfreundlich" Sportschau 07.09.2018 02:47 Min. Verfügbar bis 07.09.2019 Das Erste

Lack of transparency

But the IOC, represented by their sports director Kit McConnell, are likely to wait and assess before restoring the sport's funding.

Media were banned from the entire Congress in a slap in the face to transparency and it was clear how the cocktail reception music was not the only thing lagging behind the times.

The International Olympic Committee, FIFA and even the International Swimming Federation all showcase their meetings on a live stream. To not do so is simply unacceptable in the modern age.

The IBU blamed a constitution in need of change, although delegates were warned again not to divulge information at the beginning of the afternoon session.

Much was made over the detailed financial reports disclosed at the Congress, but this too has not been released publicly. Dahlin insisted he will now act quickly to introduce the necessary changes.

"We are sailing the biathlon ship into calmer waters," claimed another delegate.

Plenty of testing waves lie ahead and it remains to be seen if one of world sport's most backward governing bodies really has changed for the better.

Stand: 08.09.2018, 11:40