Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) supremo Chris Kermode made a spirited defence of the integrity of world tennis Monday, after charges of match-fixing over the past decade were floated by Britain’s BBC and the Buzzfeed news website.
Speaking as the first grand slam of the year got under way in Australia, Kermode said the Tennis Integrity Unit – charged with investigating any suspected betting, doping or match-fixing – had not hesitated to pursue their work.
“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.
“And while the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information, and we always do.”
An investigation released on Buzzfeed and aired overnight on the BBC charged that tennis bosses had turned a blind eye to various match-fixing scandals in the period since 2008, with the broadcaster saying the ATP has “failed to act on repeated warnings about suspect players.”
The BBC said it had “secret evidence of match-fixing in tennis,” but did not name any players.
The programme said it had seen “confidential documents which reveal how some (players) were linked to gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy which won hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches they played in.
“A number of those who have been repeatedly flagged on fixing lists passed to the game’s Tennis Integrity Unit have continued to attract highly suspicious gambling activity.”
Documents were believed to have been passed to media by whistleblowers, and concern the alleged activities of a group of 16 players from about eight years ago.
The programme also hinted that an unnamed grand slam winner – singles, doubles or mixed was not specified – had been involved in illegal activities. The BBC did not, however, provide any evidence for its charge.
For years, the highest-profile match under suspicion was between Russian Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello, with both players cleared of wrong-doing and no link to international gambling rings ever found.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit has to find evidence as opposed to information, suspicion or hearsay,” Kermode said. “This is the key here, that it requires evidence. A year-long investigation into the Sopot match in 2007 found insufficient evidence.”