First FIFA, now this? Yep, evidence has emerged of possible widespread match-fixing in the pristine world of professional tennis. According to documents obtained by the BBC and Buzzfeed, investigators hired by the Association of Tennis Professionals uncovered signs of corrupt betting syndicates and gamblers buying off well-ranked players—but little was done to fix the problem. "There was a core of about 10 players who we believed were the most common perpetrators that were at the root of the problem," says Mark Phillips, an investigator in a landmark 2007 enquiry. "The evidence was really strong." Yet tennis officials shelved their conclusions, saying lawyers advised them that strict new rules couldn't be applied to players retroactively. Among the accusations:
- Corrupt gamblers have contacted players in their hotels and offered them $50,000 or more to fix a match.
- Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy then placed "highly suspicious bets on scores of matches—including at Wimbledon and the French Open," says Buzzfeed.
- More than 70 players are suspected of taking part, but Buzzfeed and the BBC decided not to print names because the suspects' computer, bank, and phone records weren't available as conclusive proof.
- Suspects include winners of Grand Slam singles and doubles titles, and eight players slated to play in the Australian Open starting Monday.
"There is an element of actually keeping things under wraps," says an investigator. But Nigel Willerton, who heads the unit designed to police tennis, denies the accusations: "All credible information received by the [Tennis Integrity Unit] is analysed, assessed, and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators," he says.