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Scandal Rips Russian Hoops

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A scandal has engulfed the Russian basketball league.  Russian media report that league officials were caught on audio tape recently telling refs they should have tried harder to fix a game in the national championship tournament now underway. Although neither Mikhail Prokhorov nor his old team, CSKA Moscow, has been implicated in the scandal, it has tarnished the game the new Nets owner wants to revive.  It's also caused Andrei Vatutin, CSKA's president and a man reported to be headed for New Jersey, to defend his club's association with one of the ousted officials.

Specifically, the Russian league president and another league official were overheard last week telling the refs they didn't call enough fouls against a team favored in a May 13 tournament game, letting them win. "You didn't hand out enough fouls to Dinamo," the league president is head telling the refs. "For three quarters, you were supporting Lokomotiv but you didn't finish off the task in the fourth. You didn't help them enough".  Dinamo won the series anyway, then were swept by CSKA.

The refs defend themselves on the profanity-ridden tape by saying the team that was supposed to win didn't play hard enough.  As the scandal grew, the commissioner of the Russian basketball federation resigned,  the league president was fired and an officiating supervisor and two refs heard on the tape were suspended, pending  investigation. Making matters worse, a group of 28 refs have since issued a statement saying they are under great pressure because of "the System", not further described.. The ousted refs also confirmed the tape's authenticity.

Meanwhile Thursday, the coach of Khimki, another leading Russian team, wondered on his blog what role the league's "most powerful club", an obvious reference to CSKA , may have played in all this.  Sergio Scariolo, who's also coach of the Spanish National Team, noted the ousted president regularly wore a CSKA warm-up suit while attending international tournaments, implying general favoritism towards CSKA.  (The official formerly played for CSKA.)

Vatutin, in a sarcastic response posted Friday on the CSKA site, wrote that he will arrange to have the ousted president outfitted with a new wardrobe, if that's the issue. Then, he will have "a choice of clothes to visit all the international and Russian tournaments as well as different places in Europe and New Jersey" adding, "And I will defend my club, my team, our club's fans as long as I stay on this position."