Doctors, team officials banned from KHL

Russia's Continental Hockey League has banned five team executives and doctors, four of them indefinitely, for their roles in connection with the death last October of New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov.

The men -- including the former team president and general manager of Avangard Omsk, the team Cherepanov was playing for, and two team doctors -- were banned following a KHL investigation, which concluded that the parties involved "exhibited criminal negligence" in their duties and knowingly tried to treat Cherepanov's life-threatening heart condition on their own.

The league also clarified earlier media reports that stated Cherepanov had been using performance-enhancing drugs, explaining that what had been reported as doping was in fact an attempt to treat Cherepanov's heart condition.

Cherepanov's agent, Jay Grossman, declined comment when contacted by ESPN.com.

Cherepanov, 19, collapsed Oct. 13 while on the bench for Avangard Omsk and died a short time later. The league said Friday that Cherepanov had suffered from chronic myocarditis and that the cause of his death was acute heart failure.

"We are convinced that the following participants exhibited criminal negligence in the performance of their duties. Our sanctions are harsh, but we are confident that prosecutors in both the Omsk region and Chekhov district will also make their decision regarding this case," KHL vice president of hockey operations Vladimir Shalaev said Friday, according to a league news release. "I believe that those responsible will receive not only sanctions regarding their future participation in sports, but that they will also be indicted on criminal charges."

Suspended and "indefinitely denied the right to occupy any position in any club of the KHL or in any structure of KHL" were former Avangard president Konstantin Potapov; general manager Anatoly Bardin; team doctor Sergei Belkin; and former Vityaz team director Mikhail Denisov, according to the KHL.

Another Avangard team doctor, Dmitry Batushenko, was suspended for two years.

Avangard was playing Vityaz at the time of Cherepanov's death.

"One of the major issues confronting us was whether the team doctors knew about Cherepanov's disease," KHL medical chief Nikolai Durmanov said, according to the league news release. "The team doctors of Avangard say that they did not know that Cherepanov had a serious heart condition. According to these doctors it is normal for professional athletes to feel unhealthy.

"However, we have facts, which indicate that they knew about Alexei's disease. Most likely, they did not comprehend the full seriousness of his condition, as such conditions should only be treated by experienced cardiologists," he said.

Durmanov also addressed media reports last month alleging that Cherepanov had used performance-enhancing drugs.

"The team doctors of Avangard tried to treat Alexei on their own. What the press described as systematic doping, was an attempt to cure Alexei's heart condition," he said.

Following Cherepanov's death, prosecutors alleged the arena where Cherepanov was playing failed to coordinate proper emergency medical services before the game. Last month, Russia's federal Investigative Committee alleged a "row of gross violations was committed by the medical brigade" helping Cherepanov.

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun contributed information to this story.