The International Biathlon Union (IBU) announced several rule changes for the upcoming 2020–21 season – for the most part temporary changes to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a quick summary.
The one permanent change this winter is the introduction of the dark Blue Bib, which will be worn by the top competitor who has not turned 25 by December 31. The IBU Under 25 Award will be handed out at the end of the season, replacing the IBU Rookie of the Year award. Plans to introduce the experimental Super Sprint event on World Cup level were put on hold.
For the 2020–21 season only, the number of scratch results has been raised up to four for the World Cup Total Score. Scratch results are also introduced to the Nations Cup and Discipline scores as well as the IBU Cup Total Score. In case the total number of competitions are reduced, the number of scratched results will be deducted accordingly:
It’s quite the reversal for the IBU, because the sport had moved away from dropping results in the last two decades. The last time more than two results were dropped for the Overall World Cup Score was 2009–10, the last time four races were eliminated was the 1999–00 season. In Discipline World Cups, there hadn’t been any kind of scratch results since 2009–10 and no multiple scratched races since 1998–99. The Nations Cup had four dropped results until 2009–10, after that none.
Changing the number of dropped results from two to four might seem minor, but it could have a big impact on the outcome of the season. Last year, Tiril Eckhoff would have won the overall title if only 17 of the 21 races counted towards the final score (773 to 753 points); in reality, of course Dorothea Wierer won (793 to 786 points) because just the two lowest scores were eliminated.
The IBU obviously expects athletes to miss or intentionally skip more races this year, which seems reasonable. However, three dropped results for the sprint discipline for example is a lot (30% of an athlete’s results will not count), not to mention it’s quite disproportionate between the disciplines.
Number of races per score, if there are no cancelled events:
On a more technical level, the World Cup Qualification Criteria was adjusted as well, accounting for the late start of the IBU Cup season, which would be the normal route to the World Cup. Accordingly, for the first trimester only, each National Federation can register two athletes who have not fulfilled the qualification criteria. The start quotas for the World Cup remain the same.
You can find the full document about temporary changes here: Special Event and Competition Rules – COVID-19.