Ex-biathlon president gets 3 years in prison for corruption

OSLO, Norway -- The long-time former biathlon leader accused of protecting Russia from doping cases was found guilty of corruption charges in his native Norway on Friday and sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Anders Besseberg was convicted of accepting bribes in the form of expensive watches, hunting trips and a liaison with a prostitute in Moscow, which allegedly was linked to him acting in favor of Russia during more than 20 years as president of the International Biathlon Union.

Besseberg had hunting trophies, two expensive wristwatches and 1.4 million kroner ($129,235) confiscated by the Hokksund District Court in his native Norway.

The ruling said "the court has no doubt that he has acted in favor of Russia, both in word and deed."

The Norwegian, who listened quietly as the verdict was read, said he was "disappointed and surprised" by the ruling and planned to appeal.

Besseberg, 78, was indicted last April by Norwegian prosecutors on charges of aggravated corruption relating to alleged bribery dating from 2009.

The total prison sentence was for 3 years, 1 month -- six months less than what the prosecutor had demanded.

"The defendant clearly lacks understanding of the position he held and self-awareness, as the court sees it," Judge Vidar Toftøy-Lohne said as he read the 67-page verdict.

Toftøy-Lohne said the court did not take Besseberg's age into consideration when issuing the verdict.

"We strongly disagree with the result and reasoning," Besseberg's lawyer Mikkel Toft Gimse told reporters. "The way the court describes it, it seems as if Anders Besseberg has been alone in these decisions."

Besseberg stepped down in 2018 after a police raid on IBU offices in Austria as part of a multination investigation. The scandal emerged during years of investigations of state-backed doping programs and cover-ups by Russia.

An IBU-commissioned report concluded in 2021 there had been "systematic corrupt and unethical conduct at the very top" of the governing body.