As the Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on Monday, tennis officials have denied the future of the game is under a cloud after a BuzzFeed News/BBC investigation revealed allegations of widespread match-fixing at the top of the men's game.
With big name players including world number one Serena Williams on court for day one of the open, ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kermode fronted a press conference at 12.20pm (AEDT) denying claims tennis's governing bodies had sat on evidence of match fixing.
"The Tennis Integrity Unit [TIU] and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason or hasn't been properly investigated," he said.
The BuzzFeed News / BBC investigation reveals former singles and doubles grand slam champions, and at least one top 50 player who is competing at this year's Australian Open, have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.
Kermode said there was insufficient evidence to pursue specific claims cited in the investigation, but denied this constituted suppressing evidence.
"All professional players, support staff and officials are subject to the anti-corruption program," he said. "It's about obtaining evidence. You can have lots of information, lots of anecdotal reports but they can't be used. Everything that is reported to the TIU is acted upon and investigated. It doesn't just filter out."
"[Since the TIU's inception in 2008] tennis anti-corruption investigations have resulted in eighteen convictions, of which six have had life bans."
"All of us here in tennis are absolutely committed to stamping out corruption. There is a zero-tolerance policy on this and we are not complacent."
The players whose names appear in the "Fixing Files" include former singles and doubles grand slam champions, and at least one top 50 player who is competing at this year's Australian Open.
In response to questions about whether any players on tour are currently under investigation Nigel Willerton, the head of the TIU, said "It would be unprofessional for me to make comment as to whether any players are under investigation at present."
"We are confident that the Tennis Integrity Unit is doing what it can, and tackles this issue very, very seriously. So I think it will be seen that tennis is in a very, very good place and we are acting accordingly," Kermode said.
The ATP Chairman expressed his full confidence in the TIU's ability to root out corruption in the game.
"There is a zero tolerance policy on this [match fixing]. We are not complacent, we are very vigilant on this, and whilst we are aware that all sport, not just tennis, is at potential risk of corruption. That is why in 2008 the Tennis Integrity Unit was set up to actually tackle this head-on and we are constantly vigilant and not come play sent."
Willerton also stated that players and officials are subject to stringent guildlines under tennis's anti-corruption programs, and pledged that anyone found to be engaging in match-fixing would be punished to the fullest extent possible.
"We can demand their phones and laptops. Obviously they have to consent to give them, and if they don't then consent, that's called 'non-cooperation' and they can be reported and then sanctioned," he said.
"There was a case recently where a player was sanctioned and given a two year suspension. I am confident that everything that comes into TIU is actioned and assessed. But corruption is very difficult to detect and then obtain the evidence to prosecute those that go down that path."
Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Rob Stott at email@example.com.
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