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Russia says its biathlon is clean despite Sochi doping investigation

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s biathlon chief, speaking after the International Biathlon Union (IBU) said it would investigate possible cheating at the 2014 Winter Olympics, said on Tuesday that the winter sport was free of doping in his country.

Russia's Anton Shipulin shoots during the men's biathlon 4 x 7.5 km relay at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT BIATHLON) - RTX19B1J

IBU Vice President James Carrabre said on Monday he was concerned about doping in general at the 2014 Games in Sochi after a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) exposed widespread cheating and corruption in Russian athletics.

“The conclusion from the WADA report is that all winter federations who were at the Sochi Olympics should be concerned,” Carrabre told Norwegian NRK television. “I am concerned, that is why I will launch an investigation.”

Evidence of doping in Sochi would further tarnish Russia’s image as a sporting superpower and successful Olympic host nation - a matter of acute national pride.

Russian Biathlon Union President Alexander Kravtsov said he had not been informed about an investigation by WADA or the IBU.

“I can say that now, more than ever, Russian athletes are checked for doping and there are no problems. Our biathlon is clean,” Kravtsov was quoted as saying by R-Sport news agency.

Russia’s Olympic Committee declined to comment.

Biathlon, a gruelling combination of long-distance skiing and rifle shooting, is one of Russia’s most popular winter sports and a symbol of the country’s past sporting triumphs.

Soviet biathletes repeatedly topped Olympic and World Championship medals podiums in 1960s and 1970s.

But the sport is also vulnerable to the forms of drugs cheating and blood doping sometimes used in endurance competitions.

Ekaterina Iourieva, who was world champion in 2008, is currently serving a 12-year doping ban and four-time world youth champion Alexander Loginov was suspended last year after testing positive for the oxygen-boosting drug erythropoietin.

According to Russian Anti-doping Agency (RUSADA) records reviewed by Reuters in November, the Moscow laboratory at the centre of Russia’s athletics doping scandal was also used to process tests for at least 20 other sports, including biathlon.

Sergei Kushchenko, former executive director at the RBU, said the latest cheating allegations were groundless.

“These accusations are unfounded,” R-Sport quoted him as saying. “Concerning the Russian team, during the Olympic Games we were sure that our sportsmen had no such problems.

Additional reporting by Dmitry Rogovitskiy in Moscow and Karolos Grohmann in Berlin, Editing by Angus MacSwan