The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has opened a formal investigation into the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) but has dismissed cases against 22 athletes from the country named in the McLaren Report for a lack of evidence.
Seven competitors from the scandal-hit nation remain the subject of an IBU probe, the worldwide governing body announced following an extraordinary Executive Board meeting in Antholz today.
The IBU has given the RBU until another Executive Board meeting on February 9 to provide explanations on the seven athletes who were not cleared.
The organisation has also vowed to address “an urgent request to the International Olympic Committee in order to prioritise the opening and retesting of samples taken during 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi specifically for still active biathletes”.
“The RBU is to provide the IBU with a detailed and fully documented report with respect to the seven cases under investigation,” the IBU said in a statement.
“Regarding the 29 athletes, against which the IBU opened investigation on December 22, the IBU extraordinary Executive Board meeting decided today to further investigate seven individual athletes.
“There is no sufficient evidence for the other athletes for the time being.
"Moreover, the Executive Board decided to automatically include all RBU athletes competing in any IBU event in the IBU Registered Testing Pool."
The next Executive Board meeting is due to take place before the World Championships begin in Hochfilzen in Austria, where the information provided by the RBU will be scrutinised.
The IBU will then decide whether the RBU and the athletes involved, who have not been named, should face further sanctions.
They will also discuss the possibility of staging an Extraordinary Congress.
Prior to the meeting in Antholz, a letter, signed by 170 athletes, was sent to the IBU calling for “resolute action” against Russian doping.
The IBU claim the proposals in the letter are “appreciated and taken seriously” and have now been 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”, though this is thought to be a lengthy process.
Today’s announcement from the IBU means Russia has avoided a blanket ban from all international competitions and the country is likely to have athletes competing at next month’s World Championships.
“It’s OK - there is no talking about Russian biathlon team’s suspension and the team will go on with the competitions,” RBU President Aleksandr Kravtsov told Russian news agency TASS.
A total of 31 biathletes were named in the McLaren Report, which found over 1,000 Russians had been involved in the scheme, in operation at several major events between 2011 and 2015.
The Executive Board decision seems to suggest the IBU are questioning the evidence in the report from the Canadian lawyer.
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.
The IBU today confirmed the provisional suspensions remain in place.
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.