Biathlon body clears 22 Russians, investigating 7 others

ANTERSELVA, Italy (AP) The International Biathlon Union has cleared 22 athletes and given Russian sports officials an ultimatum to explain by next month what role seven others played in alleged state doping around the time of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The IBU said Saturday that the Russian Biathlon Union ''is to provide the IBU with a detailed and fully documented report with respect to the seven cases under investigation.'' Two more athletes who were already suspended remain so and are being investigated by the International Olympic Committee.

The IBU had opened an inquiry last month into 29 unnamed athletes named in the McLaren report - which detailed widespread doping in Russian sports - but said Saturday that ''there is no sufficient evidence'' to continue investigating 22 of them.

Another IBU executive board meeting on Feb. 9 will determine the status of the seven athletes still under investigation for the world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, beginning the same day.

Russian biathlon competitors implicated in the McLaren report ranged from Olympic medal winners to regional-level or junior athletes with no major achievements. Documentation regarding many of the cases was incomplete in the redacted version of the report made available to the public.

Saturday's IBU statement follows a petition signed by many top biathletes calling for tough action on the Russian doping scandal, a call which the IBU said was ''appreciated and taken seriously.''

McLaren detailed vast state-backed cheating in Russian sport that included swapping athletes' tainted samples for clean urine through the testing laboratory at Sochi, or failing to report failed drug tests at the Moscow lab. Since that report was published, sports bodies have mulled how to adjudicate sample-swap cases since it's hard to prove individual Russian athletes knew of the cover-up.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied there was a state-backed program, and Russian officials have sought to portray McLaren's star witness, former Moscow and Sochi drug-test laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, as a criminal who forced athletes to take banned substances.

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