Ten­nis unites against fix­ing re­ports

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MEL­BOURNE — World ten­nis was rocked on Mon­day by al­le­ga­tions that the game’s au­thor­i­ties have failed to deal with wide­spread match-fix­ing, just as the Aus­tralian Open, the first grand slam tour­na­ment of the year, kicked off in Mel­bourne.

Ten­nis au­thor­i­ties re­jected re­ports by the BBC and on­line Buz­zfeed News, which said 16 play­ers who have been ranked in the top 50 had been re­peat­edly flagged to the Ten­nis In­tegrity Unit (TIU) over sus­pi­cions they had thrown matches in the past decade.

Eight of those play­ers were tak­ing part in the Aus­tralian Open, the BBC and Buz­zfeed News said.

The me­dia re­ports, which fol­low cor­rup­tion scan­dals in world soc­cer and ath­let­ics, cre­ated a stir at the event at Mel­bourne Park, with play­ers ex­press­ing sur­prise at the al­le­ga­tions.

“When I’m play­ing, I can only an- swer for me, I play very hard, and ev­ery player I play seems to play hard,” wome women’s world num­ber one Serena Wil­liamsWilli told re­porters.

“If that’s go­ingg on, I don’t know about it.”

Men’s wor world num­ber seven Kei Nishikori of Ja­pan said he had not heard of any in­ci­dence of match­fi­fix­ing. fix­ing. The BBC and Buz­zfeed News said the TIU, set up to pol po­lice il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in tenni ten­nis, ei­ther failed to act upon in­for­ma­tion that iden­ti­fied sus­pi­cious be­hav­iour amon amongst play­ers, or im­pose any sa sanc­tions.

All of the 16 play­ers, in­clud­ing win­ners of grand slam tit ti­tles, were al­lowed to con­tinue com­pet­ing, the me­dia re­ports added.add TIU di­rec di­rec­tor of in­tegrity Nigel Willer­ton toldto re­porters in Mel­bourne he w would not com­ment on whether any play­ers on the pro to tour wereee un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to do so.

Reuters was un­able to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify the find­ings by the BBC and Buz­zfeed News, which said they had ob­tained doc­u­ments that in­cluded the find­ings of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion set up in 2007 by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ten­nis Pro­fes­sion­als (ATP), the gov­ern­ing body of men’s pro­fes­sional ten­nis.

The BBC and Buz­zfeed News said they had not named any play- ers be­cause with­out ac­cess to their phone, bank and com­puter records it was not pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine whether they took part in match­fix­ing.

“The Ten­nis In­tegrity Unit and the ten­nis au­thor­i­ties ab­so­lutely re­ject any sug­ges­tion that ev­i­dence of match fix­ing has been sup­pressed for any rea­son or isn’t be­ing thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated,” said ATP chair­man Chris Ker­mode.

“While the BBC and Buz­zfeed re­ports mainly re­fer to events from about 10 years ago, we will in­ves­ti­gate any new in­for­ma­tion,” Ker­mode told a hastily ar­ranged me­dia con­fer­ence at Mel­bourne Park.

The me­dia re­ports said the 2007 ATP in­quiry found bet­ting syn­di­cates in Rus­sia, north­ern Italy and Si­cily mak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds bet­ting on games which in­ves­ti­ga­tors thought to be fixed.

Three of th­ese games were at Wim­ble­don. In a con­fi­den­tial re­port for ten­nis au­thor­i­ties in 2008, the in­quiry team said 28 play­ers in­volved in those games should be in­ves­ti­gated but the find­ings were never fol­lowed up, the news or­ga­ni­za­tions said.

Ten­nis au­thor­i­ties in­tro­duced a new anti-cor­rup­tion code in 2009 but af­ter tak­ing le­gal ad­vice were told pre­vi­ous cor­rup­tion of­fences could not be pur­sued, they added.

Craig Ti­ley, Ten­nis Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive and Aus­tralian Open tour­na­ment di­rec­tor, said the Mel­bourne event had ro­bust an­ticor­rup­tion sys­tems place.

“All in­volved in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Aus­tralian Open will not tol­er­ate any de­vi­a­tions from our val­ues and rules at any level,” Ti­ley said.

Ker­mode added he was dis­ap­pointed the story had taken at­ten­tion away from the tour­na­ment.

“We are con­fi­dent that the Ten­nis In­tegrity Unit is do­ing what it can and tack­les this is­sue very, very se­ri­ously,” Ker­mode said.

TIU in­ves­ti­ga­tions had re­sulted in sanc­tions against 18 play­ers, with six is­sued life bans, he added.

Ker­mode also re­jected sug­ges­tions the TIU was un­der-re­sourced and did not have nec­es­sary en­force­ment pow­ers.

Ten­nis au­thor­i­ties have pumped about $14 mil­lion into anti-cor­rup­tion pro­grams, Ker­mode added.

TIU’S Willer­ton said they could ask for play­ers’ elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion devices, though those re­quests could be re­fused.

“If they don’t then con­sent ... that’s called non-co­op­er­a­tion, and they can be re­ported and sanc­tioned for non-co­op­er­a­tion,” Willer­ton said.

In­de­pen­dent Aus­tralian Sen­a­tor Nick Xenophon said sports reg­u­la­tors were not rig­or­ous enough and that the very na­ture of ten­nis made it pos­si­ble to en­gage in spot fix­ing, where sin­gle events are ma­nip­u­lated to af­fect live bet­ting odds.

— Reuters

Serena Wil­liams ex­pressed ig­no­rance of any dop­ing in ten­nis

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