Liam Morgan

The familiar Lou Reed hit may have crept into the minds of delegates attending the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Congress following the Presidential election last Friday (September 7).

For several officials within the embattled governing body, it quite simply was the perfect day.

While everything is far from rosy in the IBU’s garden – there are far too many challenges facing the organisation for that to be the case – the results of a critical day of voting were what those who have championed clean sport would have hoped for.

"It was exactly what I wanted," one senior official told me afterwards.

For Olle Dahlin, it could not have gone any better. The Swede comfortably defeated challenger Baiba Broka, marking the end to a campaign doused with accusations, bitterness and rumours, to become just the second President of the IBU in its short history.

The IBU membership have got plenty wrong in recent years - the decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Russia at the height of the doping scandal being the prime example - but they seemingly got this one right and the considerable margin of victory tells its own story.

Dahlin is not the greatest of public speakers but the electorate still lapped up the messages he was conveying, those of restoring reputations, regaining the trust of the athletes and of fighting against doping, as 39 of the 51 voters ticked his box instead of Broka's.

There is certainly a case that some who did so believed the Swede was the best of a largely unimpressive bunch. That will not bother Dahlin, however, as elections, much like sporting contests, are a results business.

How he got to the top is an irrelevance now; the IBU membership has placed its faith in the 63-year-old and it is up to him to deliver on the promises he made during his campaign.

Olle Dahlin will be tasked with leading the IBU from the most troubling period in its short history ©IBU
Olle Dahlin will be tasked with leading the IBU from the most troubling period in its short history ©IBU

For Broka, the Latvian politician considered a controversial candidate following claims of Russian interference in her campaign and with supposed political affiliations to Latvia’s right-wing National Alliance Party, defeat would not have come as a surprise.

She was always considered the outsider, although the rumour-mill was whirring with suggestions that she was gaining on Dahlin in the lead-up to the vote and the result would be closer than many had anticipated.

As it turned out, the support for Broka failed to materialise. Her day was anything but perfect as she also failed with her bid for a place on the ruling Executive Board, another decision which would have been hailed by sections of the IBU’s membership.

Though denying them with the strength of a biathlete charging up a hill in snowy conditions, Broka was never able to shirk the claims of Russian lobbying and suggestions that her election would make the scandal-hit country's path to redemption that much smother.

The ghosts of her past may have played on the minds of voters, who would be forgiven for being concerned about the message Broka being elected would have sent to athletes and the watching International Olympic Committee (IOC) representatives.

It is for this reason the likes of Sebastian Samuelsson of Sweden, a leading member of the biathlete community who has not been afraid to share his opinion on the torrid situation sport finds itself in, believed a Broka victory would have been the worst possible outcome, especially from a perception point of view.

Others within the IBU shared his stance. IBU Athlete Committee chairperson Clare Egan was among those to criticise Broka following her claim that four fresh doping cases against Russian athletes would not have an adverse effect on the Russian Biathlon Union’s (RBU) bid for reinstatement.

"At least the intentions of IBU Presidential candidate Broka are now clear,” she wrote on Twitter.

Dahlin may have won and won clearly but he too was unable too escape scrutiny during the campaign, particularly from those who highlighted the fact that he served as a vice-president during the tenure of Anders Besseberg, his now predecessor who stood down this year amid corruption allegations and a criminal investigation.

While there is no suggestion that the Swede had any involvement in or knowledge of the alleged covering up of Russian doping cases for financial gain, his insistence that he would lead biathlon into a new era were dismissed by sceptics who see him firmly as part of the old guard.

The Swede comfortably defeated rival Baiba Broka to become the second President of the IBU ©IBU
The Swede comfortably defeated rival Baiba Broka to become the second President of the IBU ©IBU

Dahlin, will also be tasked with dealing with an old problem - Russia - after the RBU’s provisional membership was maintained just hours before his elevation to the top job at the IBU in a vote heralded as a win for clean sport.

It will be up to the Swede and his newly-elected Executive Board to balance welcoming back one of the sport’s biggest investors and most important countries while ensuring the nation is adequately punished for their cheating in biathlon and other sports on the Winter Olympic programme.

In fairness to the IBU, they are the Winter Federation to have taken sternest action against the country and remain the only ones to prosecute an athlete based on the evidence commissioned or obtained by the World Anti-Doping Agency, but the provisional status of the RBU means little in practice.

Dahlin would also have won over a few doubters with his post-election comments as he urged Russia to "do their homework" and to prove biathlon, riddled with doping claims in the past, was now a clean sport in the country.

Further steps in the right direction were taken by the IBU as the Congress passed a motion which ensures non-compliant countries cannot host major events. It will come as a welcome relief to those who remain perturbed and perplexed by the IBU's failure to strip Tyumen of the World Cup final earlier this year, a decision which prompted athletes to boycott the event in protest.

Alongside the passing of a motion to undertake a full review of the IBU's constitution - some of which can be described as prehistoric at best - the move prompted Dahlin to declare that the first day of his Presidency had shown how the organisation under his leadership would fulfill the pledges he made.

"Today showed that we are being true to our promise of taking the IBU and biathlon into an era of greater transparency, good governance, and of dedicating even more time and expertise to the fight against anti-doping rule violations," he said.

What Dahlin neglected to mention, unsurprisingly, were the motions which did not get the green light. In a further example of the outdated nature of the membership, a vote to introduce term limits failed to pass.

At its worst, the decision reeked of staggering ineptitude from the IBU’s member countries. Have they not seen the accusations against Besseberg, an official who was allowed to rule the sport for 25 years? Can they not see the negative affect the lack of term limits has?

At a time where all federations, including the IBU, often pay lip-service to good governance and transparency, would it not have been better to ensure Dahlin and his successors cannot be given the free rein Besseberg was granted?

Changing the old-fashioned way of thinking of the IBU’s members is just one of a number of challenges stacking up in Dahlin’s in-tray, along with Russia, improving their anti-doping mechanism and enhancing the relevance of a sport which struggles to garner much attention outside of the Olympic Games.

First and foremost, though, Dahlin must oversee the restoration of funding by the IOC, frozen after the corruption claims surrounding the previous leadership emerged.

A report was sent by the IBU to the IOC by today's deadline explaining how they had met all the required criteria and the issue will now be discussed by the Executive Board prior to the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires next month.

Dahlin told media after his election victory that he was "hopeful" the money would come flowing back into the organisation’s coffers and revealed his intention to meet with IOC President Thomas Bach "as soon as possible". If the verdict goes the IBU's way, the Swede will be able to put an early tick in the win column.

Olle Dahlin hopes to meet with IOC President Thomas Bach as soon as possible ©Getty Images
Olle Dahlin hopes to meet with IOC President Thomas Bach as soon as possible ©Getty Images

Time will be the best barometer to assess whether the IBU has changed for the better and if Dahlin will be a success or failure at the helm of the crisis-ridden organisation.

He knows he cannot revel in his election win and must hit the ground running if he is to restore the shattered reputation of the IBU.

Dahlin may want to listen to Reed for advice on this front; as the American sang all those years ago, "you're going to reap just what you sow".