Here in the good old US-of-A, sports fans have done quite a bit of complaining and hand-wringing about steroids. Are they upsetting the fine competitive balance of sports? Are they upsetting the natural order of things? Well, maybe, probably not. But that doesn’t mean that sportswriters and fans haven’t a whole bunch of time pondering such things.
(Amelie Mauresmo: Blurring the line between men’s and women’s tennis since 1995.)
In actuality, we should be thanking our lucky stars that our sports here in Americaland that our sports are as relatively scandal- and corruption-free as they are. Compare any of our major sports to, say, tennis, where Russian and Italian elements have combined their vodka and pasta fueled brains to completely destroy the integrity of pro tennis, including ye olde Wimbledon.
Last year, we wrote about Wimbledon’s efforts to stave off the creeping match-fixing scourge. Officials were being pro-active, supposedly, to ensure the integrity of the matches. Turns out that the problem’s getting worse, but tennis remains publicly committed to stamping it out. Of course, this is what they say every year. Good thing for us non-Euro types, the UK newspaper THE INDEPENDENT is all over the story like white on rice:
Between six and 12 players due to compete in the men’s singles at Wimbledon are on a “watch list” of individuals under scrutiny by the game’s authorities because of past involvement in matches where suspicious betting happened and match-fixing was suspected. The revelation comes from an investigation by The Independent into corruption in tennis, and into the methods that the authorities, including the world men’s governing body, the ATP, are using to stamp it out.
12 players? That’s not just a small rogue element; that’s a sign of completely systemic corruption. Unlike American pro sports where massive salaries blunt the appeal of taking $10,000 from a Russian mobster to throw a game (unless you’re an NBA ref), the lower ranks of pro tennis are a dog-eat-dog world of high stakes and low wages.
If one is going to conspire to fix a tennis match, it might however help to not be completely retarded about it. Tennis has hired investigators to track betting trends, and let’s just say some people could learn a little something about subtlety:
A third customer, “Ruster“, had held a Betfair account since 2005 and had averaged $800 per bet until [a 2007] match. Then he bet $253,833 at odds as short as 1-11 on Arguello [the underdog]. [Favorite] Davydenko subsequently retired, injured, in the third set, making Arguello the winner.
Smooth. If the elements trying to destroy tennis are all this brilliant, the sport might just still have a chance. At some point, if the problem becomes too blatant and obvious, people will just stop paying attention and more importantly, stop betting on it. I mean, even more than they’ve stopped already (it’s Wimbledon time again?). I’m sure next year’s Wimbledon-fixing story will be even crazier. Can’t wait.