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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 08:57 GMT
Tennis boss warns of mafia threat
By Simon Austin

Tennis betting
Scott says there is no proof of corruption on the women's tour
Organised crime - including the Russian mafia - could be involved in fixing matches, the head of women's tennis has told BBC Sport.

Larry Scott said some players claimed they had been asked to throw matches.

Scott said: "One has to assume that people running organised crime would be involved in trying to gain an advantage by corrupting the competition.

"We have to be prepared for the possibility [of Russian mafia involvement] but we have no proof."

Scott said anti-corruption would be "the first item on the agenda" when he addresses 250 players before the start of the Australian Open this weekend.

Larry Scott
We must have the right to impose a lifetime ban on any athlete associated with corruption

Larry Scott
Women's Tennis Association chief executive

Earlier this week the men's and women's tours joined forces with the organisers of the four Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation to announce there would be a review of the sport's anti-corruption policies.

Scott believes the review could lead to the setting up of a joint unit across the sport with "policing and investigative powers" which could lead to prosecutions.

The American, who ran the men's tour before becoming chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association in 2003, believes such a radical approach could be necessary.

Corruption, along with doping, is the biggest threat currently facing the sport in his view.

"We have identified that there's an awful lot of gambling on tennis and that players have been approached by people who are trying to persuade them to throw a match or provide information about a match with incentives of money," Scott said.

606: DEBATE

"That's obviously against all the rules. We've got no proof of corruption having taken place, so I don't believe there is any corruption in women's tennis now.

"But we are taking all reasonable steps to combat the threat and have been focussing a lot of attention on educating players on the importance of coming forward to share information with us.

"Several players have come forward to talk to us about the approaches [to throw matches]. They have acted very, very responsibly by coming to us and ensuring we have this information."

Scott says any player found to have been involved in corruption should be banned for life.

"Sport is nothing without the integrity and fairness of competition," he said.

"As a leader of sport, that is something I feel committed to. Therefore I think we must have the right to impose a lifetime ban on any athlete that was associated with corruption."

Despite the level of the threat, Scott believes the game's governing bodies are well equipped to combat corruption.

I'm having a player meeting with 250 of our players on Saturday and this is the first item on the agenda

Larry Scott

"I've got no concern that we're not going to be able to address this," he said.

"It's just a question of resource and focus in terms of being aware of what's happening out there.

"It will be expensive, but so is the fight against doping. We're going in with our eyes wide open."

Scott realises it will probably be impossible to totally eradicate the possibility of people trying to illegally influence the results of matches in the future.

"In society and life there are always people out there trying to gain an edge, cheat and influence other people," he said.

"I don't think we will ever eradicate that, be it in gambling or doping.

"But I do believe we can create a programme that creates a significant enough deterrent for us to be satisfied we don't have an integrity problem in the sport."

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