Building an honest game
by Adam Steiss|09 JUL 2019
Campers with the IIHF Anti-Doping Green Puck. 
photo: Adam Steiss

Members of the IIHF Legal Department held a series of information sessions on Anti-Doping and Match-Fixing during the first two days of the 2019 IIHF Hockey Development­ Camp.

The sessions were designed to provide information to both the campers and coaches, as well as to staff members from the various Member National Associations (MNAs) that are also attending the HDC as part of the MNA Leadership Development Program.  

A lot of the issues stemming from anti-doping have to do with the lack of knowledge or awareness regarding the rules and regulations surrounding the WADA code. Players that test positive for banned substances often claim not to have been aware that the substance they take is not permitted, and are surprised by the severe consequences that can occur.

Approximately ten to fifteen information sessions like these are organized by the IIHF throughout the year, particularly at the World Championship, Women’s World Championship, and World Junior Championship. But the session that took place at the HDC in Finland offered an opportunity to speak directly to the leaders of national teams, who are usually counted on by the players to know the risks surrounding anti-doping and match-fixing in hockey.

The presenters were Simona Richiger and Adriaan Wijckmans from the IIHF Legal Department. Wijckmans and Richiger made a point to outline the clear definitions of Anti-Doping Rule Violations, and the consequences associated with them. With the most common sanctions being two- to four-year suspensions from all ice hockey activities, it was important information to share with the MNAs, who depend so much on their top players to help develop and promote their programs.

“Why do you think we are here today? A lot of rules that we will go over are applicable to all of you, and for the good of your players and your ice hockey programs, you need follow them,” said IIHF Junior Legal Counsel Adriaan Wijckmans. “We would be happy that you take this presentation and the messages that we give you today back to your countries and share them within your programs.”

Doping in ice hockey is thankfully not prevalent, but still can occur at all levels of the game. IIHF Compliance Officer Simona Richiger cited the Ziga Jeglic case at PyeongChang 2018 Olympics as a prominent example of doping in top level ice hockey.

Jeglic’s case, where he failed to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption for his asthma medication, was a prime example of a player that wasn’t aware of the risk he was taking but was nevertheless responsible and subject to sanction. Speaking to the MNA leaders, it was underlined that players often blindly trusts the support personnel who are also prone to mistakes or might not be fully aware of what the players are taking.

IIHF Compliance Officer Simona Richiger explaining the anti-doping process to the HDC campers.

Richiger was also very blunt regarding the use of supplements by athletes.

“Supplements…we would love that no one would use supplements, as there is a strict liability in place for players, which means that the player with a positive test is guilty unless they can prove that they had a contaminated sample. Ultimately, the player is responsible for everything that goes into their body.”

Cited a test that out of 14.8% out of 634 tested, 94 supplements were found to contain contaminants. Showed a website called that the MNA leaders and player could use to determine which substances and other medication are prohibited. Supplements can be verified via the websites Informed Sport or NSF.

Participants in the MNA Leadership Development Program during the info session on competition manipulation. 
While the camp program was primarily aimed at teaching the future leaders of the IIHF MNAs in attendance, Wijckmans and Richiger also made presentations directly to the campers themselves, taking them through the process of an anti-doping test. They also held discussion groups to talk about scenarios where an anti-doping violation would occur.

“The kids were very knowledgeable but also had different opinions about when you are innocent of an anti-doping rule violation versus when you can get caught,” said Richiger.  

During the camper portion of the program, Richiger walked the players through the anti-doping test procedures, and also asked the players to give their feedback on certain situations when an anti-doping rule violation would occur. An Outreach booth will also be set up during the middle of the camp in order to provide campers and staff with anti-doping quizzes for the chance to win the IIHF’s iconic Green Puck.

Fighting Competition Manipulation

The second half of the information sessions addressed integrity in sport, as it relates to competition manipulation.

“Manipulation is a big threat to all sports,” said Richiger. “It kills competition in sport, kills the motivation of athletes, and threatens the integrity and health of the sport.”

Match-fixing, which occurs when someone underperforms on purpose and/or not to the fullest of his or her capabilities, was one of the two main elements of competition manipulation. Match-fixing can be distinguished as having either a sporting purpose (in order to face an easier opponent in the next round) versus a monetary purpose (to win a bet placed on the game).

The next major element of competition manipulation is betting, which of course holds a complicated position within sport.

“Betting is not all bad and on the contrary is a major contributor to revenue in sport, but there is a very high risk of competition manipulation. Therefore, it is forbidden for everyone working in ice hockey to bet on any ice hockey games, to help someone in betting on ice hockey games, or to bet on any sport when participating in a multi-sport event like the Olympics,” said Wijckmans, who cited ice hockey as being the most betted-on sport in PyeongChang 2018.  

MNA leaders were also warned about social media and players taking pictures or posting from inside the locker room, or inadvertently making sensitive information publicly.

Following the MNA leadership sessions, a separate info session was held with the campers, who watched an educational video featuring Kirill Starkov, who warned against the dangers of competition manipulation. Starkov was previously charged with betting on a game in which he participated in during a Danish league match between Rungsted and Esbjerg IK on 3rd January 2014.   

Whether a player, coach, or team official, anyone involved in the sport who sees suspicious behaviour should email [email protected]­­