An investigation in the Russian national U-19 men’s handball team led to the suspension of eight players who were found to have participated in match-fixing in a move that was described as a “betrayal of the Motherland” by one official.
Eight Handball Players Suspended from Play over Match Fixing
According to investigators, who subjected the suspects to something described as psychodiagnostic evaluation and had them pass lie detectors, the eight individuals had been complicit with prohibited operations under the Handball Federation’s (HFR) statures.
The federation published gave a statement on Friday, detailing the investigation and arguing that the players had been complicit with third parties who allegedly placed wagers on behalf of the team who bet against themselves during the European Championship.
The event took place in August and the Russian national team finished 15th out of 16 participating teams in Croatia. Russia’s Handball Federation opened an investigation shortly after citing payments directed to the players. The HFR has handed four five-year bans and another four shorter suspensions.
HFR Ethics Commission chairman Boris Kipkeev detailed the investigation and the methods used to track down the wrongdoers. Seven players pleaded guilty immediately after they were named suspects, Kipkeev said.
The HRF called upon a security service specialist and psychologists to evaluate the mental state of the suspects and whether they felt remorse for their actions, leading to penalties of varying length. Kipkeev explained, “Taking into account the investigation results as well as mitigating circumstances such as remorse and exposure of third parties in the betting activity, the Commission unanimously decided to suspend eight players for different periods.”
According to HFR general director Lev Voronin, the federation knew that something was afoot as it was immediately obvious that the players were not trying to win. Officials argued that the behavior was an insult to the efforts that have gone into resurrecting handball in Russia, as the sport has been in a slump for many years now.
A Betrayal of the Motherland
HFR president Sergey Shishkarev argued that he would also seek to open a criminal investigation against the culprits on behalf of the federation. “I called it a betrayal of the Motherland earlier; that’s my attitude to the ‘financial doping,'” he added.
Shishkarev also explained that Russian sports bodies are constantly collaborating with domestic and international counterparts to try and tackle fraud in sports as it’s a problem that concerns not only handball.
The official also acknowledged that the country has faced numerous allegations pertaining to fraudulent activities across all sporting competitions. The World Anti-Doping Agency has issued a severe suspension of all sports activities involving Russian athletes with exceptions made on a per-case basis.
Russia attended the Tokyo Olympics as “The Russian Olympic Committee,” but the athletes were forbidden from competing under a Russian flag. Match-fixing has hardly been a Russian phenomenon only. An investigation looking into Olympic boxing back in 2016 has found evidence that there was match-fixing even then.
Recently, a Ghanaian footballer was charged with match-fixing after scoring two own goals. He explained his bizarre behavior by arguing that he was instead trying to foul a match-fixing attempt by the enemy team and other complicit parties. Those charges have been denied by the accused.