McEnroe criticises handling of match fixing

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The Independent Online

John McEnroe criticised the handling of tennis match-fixing claims today, saying the suspension of Russia's Ekaterina Bychkova does not make sense.

Last week, the Tennis Integrity Unit fined Bychkova $5,000 and barred the Russian from playing for 30 days, saying she failed to report that she was asked to provide inside information and throw matches.

An anti-corruption hearing officer said there was no evidence Bychkova accepted any compensation. She was penalised because she didn't disclose the offer until being questioned by investigators from the Tennis Integrity Unit, which was formed by the Grand Slam committee, International Tennis Federation, and the ATP and WTA Tours.

McEnroe called match-fixing a "huge concern" for tennis, and said Bychkova had been suspended after turning down an illegal approach, which he said would dissuade other players from being honest.

"From what I understand (Bychkova) was approached, said no, and just because she didn't report that, maybe she was afraid, I think that's a legitimate concern, and so then she's suspended," McEnroe told Australian Associated Press.

"It's one of these cockamamie rules again that I've been railing against, that doesn't necessarily make a whole lot of sense to me. Certainly that should be followed up so that someone who is actually doing the right thing doesn't get penalized, as opposed to someone who does the wrong thing and gets away with it, potentially."

Instead of encouraging players to keep their silence about such matters, McEnroe said there should be a push for greater openness, which would make it harder for bookmakers to conduct their business.

"I think they'll learn from this as an example to provide some sanctuary for people who would be reluctant to speak about it and try to crack down on the people who actually do it," McEnroe said.

"At the end of the day we're talking about someone who is winning a lot of money gambling, and it almost seems we're more worried about the gamblers than the athletes. I don't agree with that part of it."

As a contest between individuals, tennis appears highly vulnerable to illegal activity, and McEnroe said it was far easier to corrupt an individual than a team.

"This is a sport where you have only two people performing," he said. "If you were one of these guys who wants to try to fix a sporting event, it would probably be easier for you to get one person rather than say 10 people if you were playing a cricket match or soccer game or something.

"So that's a huge concern."

McEnroe is in Adelaide to take part in the three-day World Tennis Challenge exhibition at Memorial Drive.