Post-Doping Scandal Russia Plays to Draw in First Round of World Handball Championship

The newly minted Russian Handball Federation team (RHF) played to a draw in the opener of their first match of the International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men’s Handball Championship Thursday despite being heavy underdogs (+250) to Belarus.

Russia vs. Belarus
Russian athletes competing as the Russian Handball Federation, instead of for country, battled to a tie in the first round of the International Handball Federation (IHF) World Men’s Handball Championship Thursday. Thirty-two teams from around the world are taking part in the two-week event hosted by Egypt.

Seven group games continued the action on day two of the two-week, 32-team tournament in Egypt.

Russia a Team without a Country in Wake of Doping Scandal

The Russian team plays without their nation’s emblems or flag on their uniforms or their anthem after being banned from significant events for the next two years following a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In the ruling, announced last Dec. 17, the team’s proposed four-year ban was cut in half. The ban itself results from findings in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s case that accused Russia of state-ordered tampering of a testing laboratory database in Moscow.

Many are watching how the RHF team handles playing without an official country to represent as a precursor to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, where athletes will be tasked with playing under similar guidelines in the wake of the doping scandal that has plagued the nation.

Russian Athletes Can Still Compete But Not for Russia

As it stands Russian athletes and teams can compete at this summer’s postponed Olympics as well as the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing if athletes do not test positive banned substances between now and then..

Russia’s 32-32 draw with Belarus (-200), held at the Borg Al Arab Sports Hall in Alexandria, was a tight match throughout. The match was knotted at 15-15 at the break, and both teams scored 17 goals in the second half.

Uladzislau Kulesh of Belarus was named man of the match after scoring six goals in a game; both teams earned a point toward advancing to the next round.

Algeria Outlasts Morocco, Portugal Defeats Iceland

Over in Group F as heavy favorite Algeria (-450) barely bested Morocco (+475) 24-23 at New Capital Sports Hall in Cairo. Looking to pull a major first-round upset, Morocco led 15-8 at the break, but Algeria regrouped and came out one point on top.

Also in the Group F bracket, favorite Portugal narrowly defeated Iceland 25-23, and Sweden (-350) cruised to a win over North Macedonia 32-20.

North Macedonia was a late replacement for the Czech Republic 48 hours ago. The latter experienced a COVID-19 outbreak within its ranks, forcing the team as well as the US to withdraw from the tournament last-minute.

Norway Falls to France, Action Continues Friday

Reigning world champions and underdogs France (+200) besting Norway 28-24.

Eight more group games are scheduled tomorrow with teams in Groups A through D due to play their opening contests of the tournament in finless venues because of COVID-19 protocols. Games are streaming in North America on ESPN Plus.

IHF World Men’s Handball Championship Groups A-D Friday, Jan. 15; Odds according to Bwin

Favorite Underdog
Qatar +800 Algeria +725
Argentina -10000 Congo DR +2200
Croatia -3000 Japan +1650
Germany n/a Uruguay +2000
Spain -1100 Brazil +900
Denmark +10000 Bahrain +2200
Hungary n/a Cape Verde +2000
Tunisia +180 Poland -155

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