The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced Tuesday they have decided to move the 2017 IBSF World Championship, which had been set for Sochi, Russia at the Olympic Sanki Sliding Centre from February 13-26.
In a press release the IBSF explained:
“The IBSF decided to move the IBSF World Championships 2017 from Sochi, Russia to another location which will be determined in the coming days.
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:
1st: 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.
2nd: 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.”
This news comes after several athletes and national federations, which include the U.S., Canada, Latvia, Great Britain, South Korea, Germany and Austria, discussed boycotting the 2017 IBSF World Championships if it were held in Sochi amid the latest reports of Russia’s doping cover-up by the Independent McLaren Investigation.
With one of the sport’s most high-profile athletes, Latvia’s skeleton federation made it clear on December 11 they would boycott the event if it were not moved out of Sochi. Latvia’s best skeleton athlete, Martins Dukurs finished second in Olympic skeleton in 2010 and 2014, behind Canadian Jon Montgomery in Vancouver and Russian Alexander Tretiakov in Sochi. Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in women’s skeleton, has also joined the chorus of athletes wanting a change in venue.
The USOC issued a statement saying they supported an athlete’s right to choose when and where they would compete but would not go as far as to support a “blanket boycott.”
News of the change reached Team USA skeleton athlete and Sochi bronze medalist Matt Antoine as he was leaving a training session in Lake Placid, NY – site of this weekend’s World Cup event.
Antoine, reacted to the news, telling the AP, “It’s the right decision and I’m happy to see they took the proper steps. I’m sure there’s some people who are happy and some people who aren’t too happy about it. But it’s the reality of the situation. It’s an unfortunate dark cloud that’s over our sport right now. The process probably isn’t going to be clean or pretty, but this needs to be fixed.”
After meetings were held during the 2016 Rio Olympics with winter sport federations, news surfaced that any plans to hold events in Russia should be put on hold, and alternative locations should be investigated. The IOC then pivoted saying this approach should only apply to events still in the bid process. The IBSF settled on holding the 2017 World Championship in Sochi back in 2013.