Bobsled, skeleton officials move world championships out of Russia

This season's world championships for bobsled and skeleton are being pulled out of Russia after a number of sliders said they would not compete in a nation so enveloped in a doping scandal.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation voted to make its final decision on Tuesday. The move comes less than a week after the latest scathing report from World Anti-Doping Association investigator Richard McLaren showed the depth of doping and test-tampering by Russia during the 2012 and 2014 Olympic cycles.

"That's a monumental decision by the IBSF and the right move to protect clean athletes and to tell the world that state-sponsored doping is unacceptable," U.S. women's bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor said. "I am ecstatic about the decision."

The world championships were scheduled to happen over the last two weeks of February in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, on the track used for the 2014 Sochi Games. A new site is expected to be announced in the coming days.

The office of Russian President Vladimir Putin said the move was based on unfounded statements, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling it a "politicized decision." But the Russian bobsled federation said it accepted the move in the spirit of cooperation, and asked for understanding from other sliding teams.

"There are no good decisions in these circumstances and our colleagues have had to choose the lesser evil," the Russian federation said. "We understand that in a situation of mutual distrust, which is not of our creation, it is still possible to host a competition but it's not possible to host a festival, and the world championship should really be a festival which people look forward to with pleasure."

Elena Valbe, Russia's top cross-country skiing official, also said she is prepared to cancel upcoming World Cup races in the country amid the Russian doping scandal.

Valbe told state agency R-Sport she would "absolutely" allow the March 16-19 final round of the World Cup in Tyumen to be moved outside Russia if it would generate goodwill to let Russia compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The IBSF did not rebuke Russian sliding officials any rebuke over what was detailed in report. Instead, the federation said it came to realize that moving worlds was the only way "to allow athletes and coaches from all nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions -- whether justified or not."

Some of the world's best sliders -- including reigning Olympic medalists Steven Holcomb, Matt Antoine and Elana Meyers Taylor of the U.S., Martins Dukurs of Latvia and Lizzy Yarnold of Britain -- urged the IBSF for weeks to take the extraordinary action. Latvia's national skeleton team said on Sunday it would boycott if worlds were held in Russia, and Austria and South Korea were also considering such actions.

Put simply, the primary athlete concern about going to Russia for world championships was the integrity of the doping process -- with some even voicing worry that the hosts could tamper with food and drink supplies and create a situation where athletes would unknowingly ingest a banned substance. If caught in such a scenario, the athlete would receive a ban long enough to keep him or her from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

"It's a huge risk to take," Holcomb said late last week.

McLaren's report showed that some Russian gold medalists from the Sochi Games were tainted by the state-sponsored doping program. Russia won gold medals in two-man bobsled, four-man bobsled and men's skeleton at those Olympics, though none of the athletes who got those victories have been implicated by any known positive or tampered-with tests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.