A ban on fluorine wax was supposed to come into effect at the start of the 2020/2021 season. It had been banned by both the International Biathlon Union (IBU) and the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the federations are working in unison together with the company, “Kompass”, to develop a hand-held detector testing device.
The main problem seems to be that the accuracy of the testing device was not good enough. Even if the device was accurate, there were “potential sources of measurement error related to other aspects of the testing system” according to the press release by FIS.
IBU released this statement earlier the same day, with their president, Olle Dahlin, expressing why postponing the ban was the right decision.
“The IBU fully supports the decision of the Working Group Fluorinated Waxes Prohibition to introduce the fluorine wax ban in the 2021/2022 season, by which time we will have a Fluorine Tracker that can guarantee the integrity of our competitions which our athletes deserve.“Bearing in mind the apparent health risk and environmental concerns connected to fluorine waxes, we remain fully committed to eliminating all fluorine wax from our competitions. From next season onwards, we will go beyond the EU requirements and ensure we are upholding the highest standards of environmental protection, which is why we will completely ban fluorine waxes.“Equally, we also have a duty to protect the integrity of our competitions and provide a level playing field. Given the short time until the Season Opening, the Fluorine Tracker in its current stage cannot guarantee the consistent accuracy and reliability we demand. We must therefore delay its introduction.”
The wax technicians of the skiing powerhouses had expressed that they were worried about the lack of information regarding the testing device and how little was known about the process.
Some pundits were worried about keeping the playing field level. The glide advantage of fluorine wax can be substantial and if some nations would have been able to bypass the ban while others were observing it diligently the effects for the athletes could have been huge.
Many well-known athletes have come out in support of the postponement. Johannes Thingnes Boe expressed that postponing was the right choice, while Tiril Eckhoff also indicated that it was the right choice even if she thinks the process has not been good.
The response from politicians has been less positive, with several making clear that in their opinion this is too large an issue for it to be held up by concerns of fair play in sports. Fluorine wax is an environmental issue and some think that this is of far greater importance than whose skis glide the best.
The postponement of the wax ban will afford wax technicians more time to experiment with alternative and likely mean that the different nations will be more equally prepared for when it will take effect. There was some concern that as the ban arrived swiftly the powerhouses of the sports could gain further advantages as they tend to have better-funded wax teams.