Secret files have come to light that expose evidence of widespread suspected match-fixing at the highest levels of world tennis, including at Wimbledon.
An investigation by BBC and BuzzFeed News discovered that over the last decade, 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they have thrown matches.
All of these players, including winners of Grand Slam titles, were allowed to continue competing despite concerns over corruption.
The TIU- which was set up to police the sport – said it had a zero-tolerance approach to betting-related corruption.
Chris Kermode, who heads he Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the body that governs world tennis, has rejected claims that evidence of match-fixing had ‘been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated’.
But he added:
While the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information.
The documents passed to the BBC and Buzzfeed News include the results of an investigation set up in 2007 by the ATP.
The investigation looked into suspicious betting activity after a game involving Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello.
Both men were cleared of violating any rules, but the report eventually developed into a wider enquiry looking into a number of gamblers linked to top-level players.
The BBC report that ATP president Chris Kermode is aware there is match-fixing within tennis but he claims it is at an ‘incredibly small level’.
It’s reported that the enquiry found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily made hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches investigators thought to be fixed. Three of these matches were at Wimbledon.
The team behind the enquiry said that 28 players were involved in these matches and should be investigated, however these findings were never followed up on.
Tennis match-fixing claims: authorities 'absolutely reject' any cover-up https://t.co/QtGqRqBrYZ
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 18, 2016
These allegations came to light after a group of anonymous whistle blowers passed the documents to the BBC and Buzzfeed News.
Tennis introduced a new anti-corruption code in 2009 but after taking legal advice were told previous corruption offences could not be pursued.
A TIU spokesman said.
As a result, no new investigations into any of the players who were mentioned in the 2008 report were opened.
In the following year there were a number of warnings made to the TIU about a third of these players. None of them were ever disciplined.
Mark Phillips, one of the betting investigators in the 2007 enquiry, told the BBC that they discovered repeated suspicious betting activity about a clear group of players.
There was a core of about 10 players who we believed were the most common perpetrators that were at the root of the problem… There appeared to be a really good chance to nip it in the bud and get a strong deterrent out there to root out the main bad apples.
The BBC and Buzzfeed News were also given the names of other current players the TIU have been repeatedly warned about by betting organisations, sports integrity units and professional gamblers, however they declined to name them.
Eight of the players repeatedly flagged to the TIU over the past decade are due to play in the Australian Open which starts on Monday 18th January.