The athletes of the U.S. Biathlon Team announced today that they will not participate in the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup Biathlon Final in Tyumen, Russia, scheduled for March 19-26, and have released the following statement:
“The IBU’s recent decision to move forward with the World Cup Final in Tyumen, Russia is completely unacceptable. In support of clean sport and our own physical safety, we cannot in good conscience participate.
“The outcry from our fellow athletes from around the world has been respectful, strong and definitive. In addition to the dozens who expressed their opinion to the IBU Athletes Committee members ahead of the meeting in January 2018, the IBU received letters representing over 30 athletes, from eight countries, and included three 2018 Olympic Champions.
“The message from the athletes was clear. With Russia still being out of compliance with the WADA Code, with threats of physical harm to athletes who travel to Russia, with six athletes already sanctioned by IBU and the IOC from the 2014 Olympic season and another case awaiting a decision, holding the World Cup Final in Russia now sends an outrageous message of anti-doping indifference to the world.
“We fully support the right of clean Russian athletes to compete and share the opinion that Russia should be eligible to host IBU World Cups in the future; but only after they have shown a meaningful commitment to rectifying the doping culture which has been shown to exist there.
“We believe the overwhelming majority of IBU World Cup biathletes choose to compete clean. We stand united in the protection of every athlete’s fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and will bear any burden to promote fairness, equality and health for athletes worldwide.”
Just over 24 hours ago, I crossed the line in first place at World Championships in Austria. Just writing that statement seems surreal; and that is exactly what the last 24 hours have felt like. I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from fans across the world, sending congratulatory messages, reflections on where they were and what they were doing when the news flashed onto the video feed: Bailey… Gold Medal… by 3.3 second margin.
I will always remember the race itself, a long 20km race that took time to develop. I started with bib 100, nearly the last starter on the day. By the time I had started, Martin Fourcade, the undisputed favorite, had posted a formidable time and the race had been underway for almost an hour. I carried with me the knowledge that I had the capacity, with a perfect performance, to be on the podium, but I also knew how elusive that “perfect performance” can be. So I just repeated the Theodore Roosevelt quote that I often tell myself as I prepare for a race: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” To me, that represents the best chance at success… to go out and do what I’ve trained for; execute the gameplay I’ve created, and stay focus in the face of substantial distraction.
After four laps, I entered the last shooting having completed four loops, hit 15-of-15 targets, and with a ski time competitive with the leaders. This was the moment I had waited my whole life for. Five targets and four kilometers of skiing lay between me and a World Championship medal. I stayed focused. I didn’t get distracted. And I left the range in first place and a six second lead. By the top of the last climb, that lead was down to less than a second, and with my wife Erika screaming encouragement in my ear, I face the last few hills with the notion that, I needed to do this. I needed to make this happen. I had to make this happen.
3.3 seconds. That was the margin when I toed the line. That was the margin of victory. And that is a number I will remember for the rest of my life. The last 24 hours have been some of the most memorable of my life. Thank you to all of my family, friends, coaches, sponsors, and fans who have encouraged me every step of the way. It took more than two decades and hundreds of international race starts, but we finally did it!
I don’t have long to write, but I think this picture pretty much sums it up! I have so many people to credit for getting me to this moment. For now, I just say THANK YOU to all of you; your tireless work, sacrifice, and dedication made all of this possible! This is your GOLD MEDAL!
After a couple of crazy days in Hochfilzen I was woken up this morning by a knock on the door by the WCH doping control staff and whisked off to the stadium for a random blood draw. This is nothing new, but it gave me a chance to sit in the car as I rode up to the stadium, and reflect on the last 48 hours. It’s a good feeling when decades of training, and a preparation plan that started in May, pay off. After a fourth place in Saturday’s WCH Sprint competition, I found myself fighting for the podium again in yesterday’s Pursuit. And although I didn’t have quite enough in “the tank” to hold onto a podium in the last loop, I’m proud to have executed my race plan and to have completed two solid races to open World Championships 2017. A 4th and 6th place represent the two best results ever for me in any World Championship or Olympic competition… and it took me some time to get here!
I started thinking about the first time I came to Hochfilzen, in 2000, for my second World Junior Championships. At that time, I was just starting to become competitive with the rest of the international field, and I came into World Champs with high hopes. As I drove through the early morning mist, seventeen years later, I thought about the fact that I have been at this crazy sport for quite a long time. And I thought about how many people have been with me on this journey for all or most of that time. I met our current High Performance Director, Bernd Eisenbichler, for the first time in Hochfilzen, seventeen years ago. At the time, he was just a hired hand; a German wax technician who knew skis, and knew how to make them fast. Since that time, we’ve grown and changed; our roles have evolved as well. But one thing has remained constant: we still love this sport! Now, seventeen years later, we find ourselves back at the same venue where we first met, along with a staff full of decades-long friends whom I’ve travelled all over the world with, and a field of competitors, some of whom were in that JWCH 2000 field so many years ago.
I don’t know why, but it strikes me that I’ve skied these tracks so many times over the years, the long gradual climb up to the stadium, the tuck through the outgoing tunnel, and the harrowing righthand downhill corner into the final tunnel. I may be a little bit older now, but I still feel the same excitement when I step onto a biathlon course, when I see the US Biathlon Staff working their asses off for that elusive podium, and when I here the start clock counting down the seconds. What a great sport!
So, thank you to all of my supporters; family, friends, fans, sponsors, and journalists who have taken this journey with me. Here’s to a successful second half of 2017 World Champs, and a good final leg of the 2016/17 WC Season after that!
Here is the IBU Press Release regarding the outcomes of the Congress today:
Too tired to write much on my feelings about the outcome. It’s been a whirlwind of activity since we first started synthesizing and Athletes’ Petition. I’ll have more time to write my thoughts in the coming days. For now, we have a World Championships Mixed Relay to prepare for. I’m looking forward to putting the bib back on after a two-week hiatus. The whole team, Susan, Clare, Sean, and I are excited and ready to go!
- After a successful start to the start of the season, we are headed home for the Christmas break! I was a little disappointed with my finish in the 15k Mass Start today, but happy to be heading into the break at 9th place in the overall World Cup rankings.
Before we left the stadium today, Ophelia got a warm Christmas send off from our staff. she’s been on the tour for the past two weeks. It’s been awesome to have Erika and her along for the racing!
I would like to personally thank all of the Czech biathlon fans for making the Nove Mesto world cup one of the most memorable of my career!