Bobsleigh/Skeleton: Sochi stripped of world champs over Russian doping scandal
LIONEL BONAVENTURE (AFP/File)
Sochi was stripped Tuesday as the host of next year's bobsleigh and skeleton world championships amid accusations of state-sponsored doping against Russia.
The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) had come under pressure to move the event from the 2014 Winter Olympics host city after last week's damning report by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren which implicated more than 1,000 Russian athletes in at least 30 sports in a state-sponsored doping program.
The IBSF said in a statement that because of the cloud hanging over the host country they had decided to move the event to another location to be decided in the coming days.
The IBSF said: "The IBSF executive committee felt that during this difficult time it is prudent not to organize such an event in Russia. This decision was made for two primary reasons:
"First: to allow athletes and coaches from all nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions - whether justified or not.
"Second: The Russian Bobsleigh Federation has put a great effort in the preparation of the World Championships, but the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts of the organizing committee to host a great event or the quality of the Sanki Sliding Center as one of the best tracks in the world.
"Having stated that, the IBSF asks all members and athletes for fair play and respect, which also includes the assumption of innocence for any athlete, regardless of national affiliation, until proven guilty."
Latvia's powerful skeleton team had announced they would be boycotting the event in the Black Sea venue, saying on Sunday its giant neighbor had "stolen" the Olympic spirit.
Latvia finished second in the medals table in skeleton at the 2016 world championships.
McLaren described last week how Russia "hijacked" sport by involving more than 1,000 athletes in an "institutional conspiracy" to win by mass doping at the Sochi 2014 Winter and London 2012 Olympics and other global competitions.
The Canadian lawyer, who detailed in a previous report how Russian security services were involved in the nefarious scheme, said in a second report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that at least 30 sports were implicated and that salt and instant coffee were used to manipulate Russian samples.
Russia's sports ministry again denied state backing for doping, saying that it "will continue the fight against doping with zero tolerance".
Russia's track and field team was already banned from international competition for doping and was barred from the Rio Olympics in August, but there is now growing pressure for more sanctions.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) responded to McLaren's damning report by announcing it would reanalyse all 254 urine samples taken from Russian athletes at Sochi.
The report, the IOC declared, showed that there "was a fundamental attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and on sport in general".
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