BuzzFeed UK and the BBC have teamed up on an investigation that details major match-fixing evidence in tennis, including by “winners of singles and doubles titles at Grand Slam tournaments.” While the report focuses on 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 with a number matches that had highly suspicious betting patterns, they don’t name any of the suspected cheats, “because without access to phone, bank, or computer records it is not possible to prove a link between the players and the gamblers.” It is worth noting that England has much weaker protections for journalists than the United States, and much stronger libel laws.

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Much of the reports concern the investigation into highly suspicious betting patterns in a 2007 match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martín Vassallo Arguello. Both men were eventually cleared by the Association of Tennis Professionals, but the ATP’s 2008 investigation found a number of other suspicious matches, and led to the creation of the Tennis Integrity Unit to investigate corruption within the sport.

But the TIU wasn’t allowed to investigate alleged match-fixing that had occurred before its founding, and according to the leaked documents is an ineffective feeble corruption-fighting force. A number of organizations and individuals in positions to spot suspicious matches relayed their findings to the TIU, but according to the leaked files the TIU repeatedly dropped the ball:

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Bookmakers have told BuzzFeed News that, in many cases, when they tried to warn the Tennis Integrity Unit about suspicious matches they got no response. The tennis authorities often did not follow up to request in-depth information – such as the betting history and computer details of the suspicious gamblers – to which only bookmakers have access. Without that information, they say, a thorough investigation would be virtually impossible.

The European Sports Security Association, which collects suspicious betting alerts from bookmakers, has sent the Tennis Integrity Unit warnings from its members about suspicious matches involving 15 of the players whose names have repeatedly been flagged to the authorities. In one case, the integrity unit was sent four alerts about a particular player and warned to take note of his “relentless abuse”.

In addition, the European Sports Security Association alerted the Tennis Integrity Unit to 49 suspicious matches in the first three quarters of last year alone and warned in three successive reports that tennis attracts more dubious betting activity than any other sport.

There is much more to be found in the reports than can be properly summarized, and I highly encourage you to go read them in full.

[BuzzFeed/BBC]

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