Special liability of biathletes


PhD, Associate Professor I.Yu. Rogaleva1
Doctor of Law, Professor А.А. Fatyanov1
PhD, Associate Professor V.A. Shcherbakov1
PhD, Associate Professor G.A. Rogaleva2
1Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Moscow
2Kutafin Moscow State Law University, Moscow

Keywords: disciplinary liability, biathlon, doping, types of penalties, disciplinary rules, disqualification.

Background. As provided by the Constitution of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Article 5.2, ‘Biathlon is a sport that combines cross-country skiing or other forms of movement, with rifle shooting’. The first formal competitions in a biathlon-like sport discipline were held back in 1767 by border guards on the frontier of Sweden with Norway. The 1924 (I) Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France included a military patrol competition that is viewed a predecessor of modern biathlon. Biathlon was formally recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1954 under the auspices of the International Federation of Modern Pentathlon, and since then has been gathering momentum and popularity. At first only the men’s competitions were allowed, but very soon women were allowed to compete as well. In 1960 biathlon was formally included in the Winter Olympic Games events; and since 1978 World Cups were contested in this discipline. With time the formal top-ranking competitions included European Championships, European IBU Cups and Junior Competitions. On November 30, 1992, biathlon was formally qualified as an independent sport discipline separate from modern pentathlon. In 1993 the International Biathlon Union was established, and since then biathlon has been ranked among the highly popular sport disciplines, particularly in Norway, Sweden, Germany and Russia, with its competitiveness growing, rules of competitions being perfected and new sub-disciplines emerging year to year.

Objective of the study was to analyze the valid regulatory framework and spell out the existing types of penalties and disciplinary measures applied in modern biathlon.

Study findings and discussion. The issues of disciplinary liability are regulated by the valid IBU Disciplinary Rules, IBU Event and Competition Rules, and the IBU Anti-doping Rules. The IBU Disciplinary Rules give definitions of the notions of punishment and disciplinary measures. As provided by the IBU Disciplinary Rules Article 3, subject to penalties are the athletes and to disciplinary measures are the coaching, management, service personnel of the IBU and other IBU agencies. The penalties and disciplinary measures are applicable in the following cases: violations of the principles of fair play or the requirements of sportsmanship including violations of the IBU Rules of Competitions, IBU Anti-doping Rules, Constitution of the IBU and other IBU rules, regulations and Board decisions; damage or risk for reputation or lawful interests of the IBU; damage for the contractual relationship of the IBU, its organs, its members, the organs of its members or their affiliates and relatives.

The IBU Disciplinary Rules Article 5 sets forth types of penalties and the relevant requirements including reprimands, start prohibitions, time penalties, disqualifications and suspensions.[1] The Article gives a list of the violations subject to penalties, gives a definition for violation of the IBU Constitution or other IBU rules and actually classifies the potential violations with the relevant penalties. These clear definitions undoubtedly facilitate the competition jury services and put the disciplining policies and practices on a fair and transparent basis.

A reprimand will be imposed in the case of: jeopardizing or defaming the honor or reputation of the IBU or its interests; insulting the IBU, its organs, its members, the organs of its members or their affiliates and relatives; violations of rules for which no penalty is provided or more severe penalty is not expressly stated (item 5.1).

Athletes or teams will be prohibited from starting for: violation of the eligibility and qualification requirements of the IBU Event and Competition Rules; appearing for start with material, equipment, clothing or advertising not in compliance with the IBU Event and Competition Rules or Annex A (the IBU Material Catalogue) to those Rules, or with the IBU Rules for Advertising; appearing for start with the wrong start number, or no start number/thigh number, due to a mistake made by the athletes or their teams; violating the rules regarding official training, zeroing, warm-up and/or ski testing or safety regulations. The prohibition applies for the competition in which the violation occurred, or the next competition, as applicable.

A time penalty of two minutes will be imposed on athletes or teams for: every penalty loop, resulting from shot penalties, not done by an athlete immediately after each prone or standing shoot; every round not fired if athletes recommence skiing before they have fired all five shots in an individual, sprint, pursuit or mass start competition, or all eight shots in a relay competition, having not hit all targets; committing a minor violation of the principles of fair play or the requirements of sportsmanship.

Athletes or teams will be disqualified for: breaching the rules; violating Article 1.4 of the IBU Event and Competition Rules “Eligibility Rules for Competitors and Teams” etc.

Suspension is applied when, after the end of a competition protest deadline, an athlete is found guilty of having grossly violated the IBU Rules. The competition jury of the competition concerned may suspend that athlete from the next competition. In the event of a particularly gross violation, the Executive Board may extend the suspension to more than one competition and up to a maximum of 15 consecutive competitions of the ongoing World Cups and World Championships (item 5.7)

Violations of the Constitution of the IBU and IBU Rules are quite common among other disciplinary violations in modern biathlon; they normally occur unintentionally due to lapses in concentration of the athletes, with doping being ranked among the most serious and simultaneously most common violations of the disciplinary rules in biathlon since such violations not only undermine the individual sport careers but also cast doubts on the integrity and sportsmanship of the national teams on the whole. Even a single violation of the valid IBU Anti-doping Rules may provide enough grounds for the relevant anti-doping agency to suspend the violating athlete from competitions and cancel the individual contract.

Different means to stimulate the bodily performance, improve working capacity and endurance were known and applied since ancient times. It was traditional in ancient Babylon and Egypt, for instance, to use different herbs and agents to spur up warriors’ fighting spirits and power. In Europe the practice became quite common since the Alexander-the-Great wars.

The notion of doping initially referred to the traditional potions used in the religious rituals in South Africa. In the present meaning the term first came into use in 1865 during the swimming competitions in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and since then has become common for the global sport communities. With time the global sports have developed cooperation in the doping control efforts. This cooperation has always implied the practice of tripartism i.e. cooperation of the government agencies, sport federations and multilateral anti-doping agencies. The modern anti-doping polices require the individual competitive accomplishments in the competition where the doping was detected being annulled – regardless of whether or not the athlete is guilty. When the doping test is positive and the biathlete can prove that the prohibited agent or method has been administered through no fault of him/her or due to negligence, the penalty may be eased or non-imposed. The evidence required for the penalty may include own confession of the athlete; testimonies of witnesses; documented material evidence; findings of the authorized monitoring entities for the relevant time period etc. The fact of an intentional use of the prohibited substance/ method shall be proved in the case of an attempted use since every athlete bears a responsibility for every substance that may somehow enter his/her body. Every athlete shall keep informed the relevant anti-doping agency on his/her own whereabouts to be available any time for a non-scheduled doping test; with every trip, every scheduled and unplanned trip being reported on an obligatory basis to the relevant anti-doping agency. Should the athlete fail to be available for three consecutive tests and/or keep the agency informed on his/her own whereabouts for as long as 18 months, such a failure may be qualified a violation of the anti-doping rules or, in some cases, an attempted dodging the tests.

As things now stand, doping is considered the most common and serious violation of the valid disciplinary codes in biathlon. It could be ranked lower on the list of the violations if the consequences were not that serious for the sport and health. It is beyond doubt that doping is one of the most serious problems of modern sports that cannot be easily solved at this juncture. The sport communities tend to welcome the increased disqualification terms as a great step in the doping control efforts, and many biathletes require these terms being extended up to the total disqualification for a lifetime. It is also important to have the penalties associated with the initiatives to promote clean, honest and healthy sports on the whole and children and youth sports in particular, to ensure that the new generation of athletes is zero tolerant to doping.

One of the ways to further improve the doping control process is to tighten up the penalties and disciplinary measures up to the lifelong disqualifications of biathletes, coaches, sport managers and service personnel implicated with the doping cases. Doping in biathlon is known to be associated with high risks for the athlete’s health for it may provoke complications, health disorders and even be lethal at times. Every individual involved in manufacturing, keeping and distribution of stimulators listed as doping agents shall bear due responsibility up to the criminal one. It is only by the determined, cooperative and harmonized efforts of the global sport communities with application of an integrated and effective toolkit that doping may be defeated and never come back again in the future.

Conclusion. Subject to analysis under the study were the types of penalties in biathlon as provided by the relevant international regulations and the IBI Executive Board Rules, IBU Event and Competition Rules and the IBU Anti-doping Rules with a special emphasis on the legal liability of biathletes.


  1. Alekseev S.V., P.V. Krasheninnikov [ed.] Sportivnoe pravo. Trudovye otnosheniya v sporte. Uchebnik dlya vuzov [Sports law. Labour relations in sport. Textbook for higher schools]. Moscow: UNITY-DANA, Zakon i pravo publ., 2013.
  2. Official website of the International Biathlon Union: http://www.biathlonworld.com/.

Corresponding author: andryushenko-lil@mail.ru


The study analyzes some issues of biathletes’ liability with an emphasis on the meanings and definitions of penalties (in application to athletes) and disciplinary measures (in application to coaches). Subject to a special analysis under the study were the types of penalties imposable on biathletes. Violations of the Constitution of the IBU and IBU Rules are quite common among other disciplinary violations in modern biathlon that normally occur unintentionally due to lapses in concentration of the athletes, with doping being ranked the most serious and at the same time the most common violation of the disciplinary rules in biathlon. It could be ranked lower on the list of the violations if the consequences were not that serious for the sport and health.