The IBU have called for an Extraordinary Congress to take place ©IBU

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has arranged an Extraordinary Congress which will take place before their World Championships in Hochfilzen, as the governing body tries to address doping concerns. 

The decision, made by the IBU Executive Board, comes a day after they opened a formal investigation into the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) while at the same time dismissing cases against 22 athletes from the country.

All of the athletes were named in the McLaren Report but the IBU said there was "a lack of evidence".

Seven competitors from the scandal-hit nation remain the subject of an IBU probe, the worldwide governing body stated yesterday.

They gave the RBU until another Executive Board meeting on February 9 to provide explanations on the seven athletes who were not cleared.

The IBU have now announced their intention for an Extraordinary Congress to take place, with the aim of strengthening anti-doping rules.

"The IBU Executive Board fully understands and supports the initiative of the athletes to sharpen the IBU rules for anti-doping offenses towards both the member federations and individual athletes," an IBU statement read.

"In order to implement new rules as soon as possible, the IBU Executive Board calls for an Extraordinary Congress to approve rule changes and put them in practice before the IBU WCH 2017 in Hochfilzen, Austria."

The World Championships are due to take place from February 8 to 19.

The Extraordinary Congress will take place before the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen ©IBU
The Extraordinary Congress will take place before the IBU World Championships in Hochfilzen ©IBU

Their decision comes after a letter, signed by 170 athletes, was sent to the IBU calling for "resolute action" against Russian doping.

The IBU claimed the proposals in the letter are "appreciated and taken seriously" and were passed on to the Legal Committee "in order to draft proposals to the Executive Board for future rule amendments to be tabled at the next Congress", although this is thought to be a lengthy process.

Yesterday’s announcement from the IBU meant Russia avoided a blanket ban from all international competitions and the country is likely to have athletes competing at next month’s World Championships.

A total of 31 biathletes were named in the McLaren Report, which found over 1,000 Russians had been involved in a doping scheme, in operation at several major events between 2011 and 2015.

Olympic silver medallist Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina were both provisionally suspended in December after the McLaren Report revealed they were among those to have had their samples tampered with as scratch marks were found on their bottles.

However, there is no indication that the pair were deliberately taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Following the announcement of the suspensions given to Romanova and Vilukhina, investigations were then opened into the other 29 biathletes.

McLaren’s report has already led to the RBU giving up hosting rights for a World Cup event in Tyumen and the IBU World Junior Championships, which have been moved to Osrblie in Slovakia.

Tyumen could still be stripped of the IBU World Championships in 2021, which they were controversially awarded in September.

The decision is also being looked at by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who have given the IBU extra time to explain the reasons why the Russian city was awarded the event despite it being a clear violation of the WADA Code.