Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
Spain’s Guarda Civil has arrested 34 people including six tennis players after dismantling a criminal organisation dedicated to fixing Futures and Challenger tennis events in Portugal and Spain. It is estimated that over €500,000 in profit was generated by the scheme, which involved placing bets online after ‘certain aspects of the game’ had been arranged beforehand with a tennis player who acted as an intermediary. This usually involved the loss of a service game.
‘The Guardia Civil agents began the investigation after receiving information from the TIU (Tennis Integrity Unit)…about a corruption attempt involving a sporting event’, read a statement issued by Spain’s Ministry of the Interior. ‘Initial investigations revealed that for the match, the different parties involved used an intermediary, a tennis player who kept direct contact with the players in order to corrupt the result’.
If a player refused to agree to the intermediary’s demands, the commission offered was either doubled or tripled. Once it had been agreed that an aspect of the game would be corrupted, an ‘instant messaging application’ was used to communicate the fact to interested parties.
The Guarda Civil said that following a study of the data ascertained during the investigation, it became apparent that the organisation had been involved in 17 events in Seville, Huelva, Tarragona, Madrid and Porto. Those involved – who have yet to be named, have been charged with crimes including fraud, corruption and membership of a criminal organisation.
In February this year, the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee heard that there had been a huge increase in the number of suspicious betting alerts reported to the TIU – from 14 in 2012 to 246 in 2015. The majority of these related to the lower ranked Futures and Challenger tournaments, which typically involve younger players.
Sports integrity body ESSA reported that 73 of the 100 suspicious events it reported to sporting bodies during 2015 involved tennis, and that pattern appears to be continuing through 2016. Tennis made up 31 of the 37 alerts ESSA reported to sporting bodies during the third quarter of 2016. Khalid Ali, Secretary General of ESSA, expressed his “concern at the continuing integrity issues within the sport” but said that the association “welcomed the more proactive approach to combatting match-fixing being displayed by the sport’s governing authorities. ESSA continues to liaise closely with the Tennis Integrity Unit and share data surrounding potential corruption.”
ESSA has engaged with the Tennis Independent Review Panel appointed in January, which is expected to publish an interim report in the first quarter of 2017 – a year after it was set up. The panel was established in response to allegations that tennis has failed to fully investigate match-fixing, after the BBC and BuzzFeed alleged that the sport were ‘repeatedly warned’ about a group of 16 players suspected by integrity investigators. ‘Whilst the TIU has made some welcome additions to its investigatory team, the implementation of any wider recommendations unfortunately looks to be some way off’, wrote ESSA Chairman Mike O’Kane in the Q3 report.
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