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  • Thomas Bach Warns Biathlon to 'Act Quickly' Amid Crisis


    04/18/18

    (ATR) Standing in for embattled International Biathlon Union president Anders Besseberg, IBU vice-president Max Cobb is faced with the unenviable task of representing the tarnished federation this week at SportAccord.
    IBU vice-president Max Cobb in Bangkok (ATR)

    Amid turmoil in the wake of last week’s Austrian federal police raid and subsequent criminal investigation into illegal activities and the acceptance of Russian bribes by Besseberg and secretary general Nicole Resch, the U.S. biathlon leader addressed IOC president Thomas Bach, executive director Christophe de Kepper and fellow winter sport leaders in Bangkok.

    “I gave a short report to the presidents of the international federations and to the IOC executive board, offered to have a more in depth discussion with President Bach and Christophe de Kepper and we did that yesterday afternoon,” Cobb tells Around the Rings at SportAccord. “Obviously, all of us are shocked and very concerned and we want to put in place an external review as quickly as we possibly can.”

    Asked by ATR what was Bach’s message to the IBU, Cobb said: “Act quickly. In short, it was act quickly.”

    Besseberg stepped down April 12 amid the Austrian investigation into fraud, corruption and a doping cover-up, while the IBU’s secretary general Nicole Resch was “provisionally suspended” by biathlon’s ruling body.

    The bribes amounted to $300,000, prosecutors said. A report by Norwegian newspaper VG alleged that Besseberg has helped to hide 65 Russian doping cases since 2011. It said 17 of the 22 Russians who participated in last season’s World Cup were linked to “proven doping”.

    Cobb said his initial reaction to the news was “pit in the stomach…it was shock, just shock.”

    Anders Besseberg (IBU TV)
    The stand-in president said he has not heard directly from Besseberg, although the IBU president – who has presided over the federation since 1993 – has been in contact with members at the federation’s headquarters in Salzburg.

    “He’s been in contact with our office and I think he acted very responsibly and very quickly in contacting the office and in stepping aside, so I think nothing to say there,” said Cobb, a recently appointed vice-president, who oversaw the biathlon competition at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games.

    “I think we need to let the investigation run. Obviously, we don’t know what they know, and we just need to support it and do our part and there is a role for us to play in looking at our own anti-doping operations, in getting external experts to come in and give us their feedback on how we can be better.

    Cobb with IOC member Gunilla Lindberg in PyeongChang (NordicFocus/US Biathlon)
    “That’s what I think we should concentrate on putting in place in addition to keeping the ongoing operations of our federation going.”

    Cobb advised that the federation is cooperating with authorities as the investigation moves forward. He also noted that the federation does not have a copy of the World Anti-Doping Agency report which helped trigger the raid and subsequent criminal investigation.

    “We’ve reached out directly to the investigator and the state’s attorney and asked to be kept as informed as possible,” Cobb said. “At this point, they won’t give us any information other than they’re concentrating on those two individuals as part of their investigation.”

    Cobb noted that available IBU board members met on Sunday in Austria – four days after the raids in Salzburg and at Besseberg’s home in Norway – but another emergency meeting has yet to be scheduled.

    “This is the time of year when everybody scatters to the four corners of the earth so, you know, we’ve got one board member in Kamchatka, another in Japan, another in the Bahamas so getting everyone together is – we’re still working out the details.”

    Written by Brian Pinelli with reporting by Mark Bisson in Bangkok

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