Biathlon champ, teammates barred

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Biathlon world champion Yekaterina Iourieva and two Russian teammates were barred from the world championships after testing positive for banned substances.

Follow-up tests confirmed positive results for Iourieva and teammates Albina Akhatova and Dmitri Yaroshenko, the International Biathlon Union said Friday.

"We are facing systematic doping on a large scale in one of the strongest teams of the world," IBU president Anders Besseberg told reporters on the eve of the world championships in Pyeongchang.

He did not disclose which banned substance or substances were found. The tests were conducted at a World Cup event in December in Ostersund, Sweden.

The three athletes have been provisionally suspended and will face an IBU disciplinary panel once the federation receives full results from a testing laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The athletes risk two-year bans that could rule them out of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"Either we have been able to catch them all, or we have only seen the top of the ice mountain," Besseberg said. "There is no, absolutely no, excuse for what the three doped Russian athletes and the people behind them have done."

The Russian Biathlon Union said it would conduct its own investigation.

The confirmation Friday comes as athletes prepare to compete in the first biathlon worlds to be held in Asia.

Iourieva leads the World Cup standings with 567 points halfway through the season. She won gold in the 15-kilometer individual race at last year's worlds in Ostersund.

Since the positive test in December, Iourieva has won the 7.5-kilometer sprint and the 12.5-kilometer mass start.

Akhatova, a three-time world champion in mass start and relay, is sixth in the standings with 443 points. Yaroshenko is 21st in the men's field with 203 points. He competed twice on Russia's world champion relay team.