27th November 2020,
The IIHF Disciplinary Board has upheld the decision by the Disciplinary Committee of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association to suspend seven Belarusian ice hockey players for match-fixing. The Board also annulled a subsequent decision by the BIHA to reduce the suspension to six of the seven players last month, thereby keeping the original suspension decision by the Disciplinary Committee in place.
The following players were initially suspended by the BIHA:
- Pavel Boyarchuk, Forward, Belarus
- Stanislav Kuchkin, Forward, Russia
- Vyacheslav Lisichkin, Forward, Belarus
- Alexei Ivanov, Goaltender, Russia
- Nikita Ustinenko, Defenceman, Belarus
- Sergei Sheleg, Defenceman, Belarus
- Alexander Syrei, Defenceman, Belarus
All players are suspended from the participation in all competitions or activities organized by the IIHF from July 2, 2020 until June 30, 2022 and – modifying the decisions of the IIHF on the Provisional Suspensions of the players, dated July 2, 2020 - all competitions authorized or organized by IIHF Member National Associations and their members, leagues and/or clubs until May 31, 2021.
The Disciplinary Board also annulled a set of decisions taken by the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association Disciplinary Committee, dated October 8, 2020 and October 21,2020, to reduce the suspension length of Boyarchuk, Kuchkin, Lisichkin, Ustinenko, and Sheleg. The Board determined that the reduction of the period of suspension for these players by five months in the case of Lisichkin and six months in the case respectively of each of Boyarchuk, Kuchkin, Ustinenko and Sheleg is inconsistent with IIHF Statutes and Regulations (IIHF Statute 1.5).
According to section 8.2 of the IIHF Disciplinary Code, displaying remorse may be considered by a disciplinary body as a mitigating factor when it determines a sanction. The Deciding Panel of the IIHF Disciplinary Board has not to decide in the case at hand whether this rule may be applied mutatis mutandis in order to reduce a sanction after it had been imposed.
In its decision on October 8, 2020, the BIHA Disciplinary Committee acknowledged that the activities of the players during their suspension period, like organizing training sessions for young players, promoting and popularizing the sport of ice hockey, giving anti-doping information at a club’s hockey school, transferring their professional knowledge and skills to students of a sport school, working with young children and helping amateur teams, and participating in charity events organized by their clubs and other institutions, as evidence and proof that the players regretted their unlawful actions and tried to repair the damage to the sport of ice hockey which they had caused, and would justify reducing the periods of these player’s suspensions.
In its decision to annul the decision, that IIHF Disciplinary Board’s Deciding Panel considers the activities which the BIHA Disciplinary Committee has acknowledged as the basis for its decision to reduce the suspensions not as exceptional expressions of the players’ remorse about their offences, but as usual and necessary attempts to regain confidence and trust in their integrity and loyalty as persons and ice hockey players, in an effort that these activities would allow them to continue their career as professional ice hockey players. Furthermore, the majority of the activities the players indicated they were engaged in are the type of activities that professional hockey players ordinarily perform in their community, working with youth and attending charitable causes.
Moreover, if the BIHA Disciplinary Committee decisions on October 8, 2020 and subsequently on October 21, 2020 were to remain in effect, the result would be a suspension for one player for 9 months (Lisichkin) and four players for 8 months (Kuchkin, Boyarchuk, Ustinenko and Sheleg). In reducing the suspensions in such a manner, the BIHA Disciplinary Committee has failed to recognize that the manipulation of a competition with the intention to obtain financial benefits from it requires a severe sanction. Match-fixing is a serious violation of the principles of fairness and integrity which rule the sport of ice hockey (IIHF Code of Conduct Rule 1.2) and brings the sport of ice hockey into discredit.
Match-fixing incident from 2019 Belarusian Championship
Each of the player’s suspensions stem from a match-fixing incident that occurred during a game of the Belarusian Extraliga Championship between Mogilyov defeated Dynamo Molodechno 6-5.
On 13 November 2019, representatives of the relevant Belarus department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs began an investigation process into the result of the game. Based on this investigation, the Central Office of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus determined that each player took a decision to have an unlawful influence on the outcome of the Game, by ensuring defeat of the club in exchange for receiving illegal remuneration.
During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the Game in exchange for illegal remuneration.
Subsequent to the Investigative Committee issuing its report, the Disciplinary Committee of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association (BIHA) opened disciplinary proceedings against the players.
After the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association Disciplinary Committee made a final decision regarding the sanctioning of the players for the incident, the BIHA referred the players’ cases to the IIHF in accordance with IIHF Bylaw 23.1.3.
Based on the currently available evidence as indicated above, in accordance with IIHF Code of Conduct Rule 3.6, the IIHF decided to provisionally suspend the players from all ice hockey competitions or activities authorized and/or organized by the IIHF or any IIHF Member National Association as of 2 July 2020.
The original article can be found here.