Handball-Teenage Russians banned for matchfixing after lie detector tests

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian national Under-19 men's handball team underwent lie detector tests and "psychodiagnostic evaluation" in front of a security specialist before eight of them were banned for match fixing, the country's Handball Federation (HFR) said on Friday.

The team were suspected of receiving payment via third-party gambling to throw matches in the European Championship tournament in Croatia in August, when they lost six of their seven games to finish 15th of the 16 competing teams.

The HFR Ethics Commission gave details of its investigation of the events, that led to four players receiving five-year bans and another four being given shorter suspensions for what the HFR's President Sergey Shishkarev described as a "betrayal of the Motherland".

"The commission made an analysis of the matches and players’ actions," said HFR Ethics Commission Chairman Boris Kipkeev. There was a forensic expert, a specialist in the field of diagnostics of nonverbal behaviour, psychodiagnostics of lie together with a polygraph examiner. Seven players out of sixteen pleaded guilty voluntarily.

"The psychophysiological examination took place in the presence of the psychologist and security service specialist as a free conversation with the players to speak about the moral climate in the team. Every player gave explanations regarding participation in manipulation of competition.

"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."

Lev Voronin, HFR General Director, said that the investigation was launched immediately after the competition as it was "easy to see players were not trying their best to win."

Shishkarev added: "The facts which were established by the Ethics Commission cause not only indignation but also a feeling of deep disappointment towards young players. I called it a betrayal of the Motherland earlier, that’s my attitude to the “financial doping”.

"We are making a lot of efforts to pull Russian men’s handball out of the crisis where it has been during the last years."

Shishkarev told the TASS news agency that his organisation was seeking to open criminal proceedings against the guilty players and that he had made various suggestions to prevent similar events happening in the future.

"It is a constant monitoring, expansion of cooperation with betting companies and close collaboration with other federations and the Russian Olympic Committee, because obviously the problem concerns not only handball," he said.

"We plan to create a permanently active commission in the HFR monitoring fixed matches."

The news is a setback for Russia as the country seeks to rebuild its international sporting reputation after sanctions were imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for state-sponsored doping and manipulation of results.

Russia is banned from hosting any major events for two years, while their athletes at the Tokyo Olympics had to compete under the title of Russian Olympic Committee, and their flag and anthem were banned.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)

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