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(LEAD) Five short track speed skaters charged with illegal gambling

All Headlines 16:39 April 07, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS drinking incident in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- Five short track speed skaters have been charged with allegedly placing illegal bets on sports games online, the police said Thursday.

The Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency said they have booked without physical detention five short track speed skaters on charges of regularly betting on sports games on illegal websites last year. The police said that three of them finished in the top eight in the second round of the short track speed skating national team qualification for the 2016-17 season, which ended on Sunday. One of the five skaters is a high school student, the police added.

Each skater allegedly placed bets up to 3 million won (US$2,600) on an illegal sports gambling website, according to the police. The police added that they could expand the investigation to other short track speed skaters.

The Korea Skating Union (KSU) said Thursday that it is stunned by the scandal and will come up with a punishment for the players while watching how the investigation result turns out.

"What's really a problem is that three skaters advanced to the third round national team qualification in September," an official from the KSU said on the condition of anonymity. "We will think about the punishment, including their disqualification, for the national team qualifiers."

The official said that the KSU will look into how athletes in other sports were punished after they were charged with illegal gambling.

The only legal form of sports betting in South Korea is through purchasing Sports Toto lottery tickets, which are also available online. Sports Toto offers odds on wins, ties, losses and final scores.

In a separate case the KSU said it has punished some 20 speed skaters who had a late night drinking party during the national team training period to 50 hours of community service. They will also be expelled from the national team training this season.

The speed skaters, who are the reserve squads for the national team, had a drinking party last month under a bridge near their lodgings while their coaches were asleep, according to the KSU. Some of them were underage and a female high school speed skater was also involved, the KSU added.

The KSU said the coaches collected their cell phones, but the skaters had planned the party in advance and escaped from their rooms around midnight. They were caught by police officers patrolling the area and were released after a police investigation.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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