IBU corruption: Besseberg sentenced to three years. GETTY IMAGES

Anders Besseberg, former president of the International Biathlon Union, has been sentenced to three years and one month in prison for aggravated corruption, Norwegian prosecutors announced on Friday.

Anders Besseberg, the 78-year-old Norwegian who headed the International Biathlon Union (IBU) from 1993 to 2018, was found guilty of nine out of ten charges of aggravated corruption between 2009 and 2018. He denied the charges, but was found guilty of accepting bribes and other unlawful advantages during his time in office.

"I am obviously disappointed and surprised by the verdict and I will immediately appeal against it," Besseberg told the court after the judge read out the 67-page verdict, which took nearly three hours to read. "We hope that this verdict can contribute to raising awareness and that it will have a preventive effect," chief prosecutor Marianne Djupesland said in a statement.

"There is a lot of money in top-level international sport. The federations manage considerable financial assets and make decisions that are important for both athletes and the economy," she said.

IBU's President Anders Besseberg in 2017. GETTY IMAGES
IBU's President Anders Besseberg in 2017. GETTY IMAGES

Prosecutors sought a jail term of three years and seven months plus a fine of one million kroner (€85,974). The court didn't fine him but ordered Besseberg to return gifts worth 1.4 million kroner (€120,364), as two out of the three watches he received were deemed to be involved in corrupt practices.

During his tenure as head of the IBU when the Russian doping scandal nroke in the 2010s, Besseberg faced allegations that he initially covered up instances of Russian doping in his sport in exchange for benefits.

The IBU is now trying to "put this dark period in the past history behind us" and focus on a "very bright future" after an external review uncovered evidence of "systematic corruption and unethical behaviour" under its previous leadership.

In a statement, WADA said: "The World Anti-Doping Agency welcomes the guilty verdict handed down by a court in Norway against the former President of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), Anders Besseberg." 

"It shows once again that WADA will always act to do what is right for clean sport. The sentence should serve as a warning to other administrators who threaten the integrity of sport," WADA concluded. Besseberg denied any involvement with sex workers, admitting only to a consensual affair with a 42-year-old Russian woman.