SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/Law and Politics

Lawyer slams ATP over gambling

The attorney for four suspended Italian tennis players plans to condemn the ATP at a prospective trial in the coming months for failing to punish IMG owner Ted Forstmann for gambling on tennis.

Signaling that the issue of Forstmann’s past gambling will not die in the new year, lawyer Robert Elgidely said he planned to raise the topic as evidence of what he termed the ATP’s hypocrisy in gambling enforcement.

Forstmann last year admitted to betting in 2007 on a match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The ATP handed the matter off to the Tennis Integrity Unit, which said the incident fell before its 2009 creation. Elgidely said ATP rules in place in 2007 that banned betting by player personnel would have covered the bet and should have resulted in sanctions from the ATP.

The core of his clients’ case against the ATP is that the group is using them as scapegoats to deflect from gambling among higher-level players. They were fined and suspended by the ATP in 2007 and 2008 for gambling on tennis. The Forstmann incident would serve as an example of what Elgidely contends is the ATP’s willingness to bend its rules when revenue is at stake.

The ATP responded that the Italians’ case and Forstmann’s situation are not comparable.

“The plaintiffs in the lawsuit you mention were professional tennis players who admitted they repeatedly bet on tennis in violation of tennis rules,” ATP spokeswoman Kate Gordon wrote in an e-mail. “With regard to Mr. Forstmann, he placed a bet in 2007 on Roland Garros, which is not an ATP event. Grand Slams were governed by their own set of rules prior to tennis adopting a uniform anti-corruption code in 2009, which was a significant advancement for the sport. Unfortunately, at that time, the rules did not cover him.”

IMG, which declined to comment, owns several stops on the tour and manages elite players, including Federer, on whom Forstmann placed his bet. In addition, one of its executives (Gavin Forbes) is on the ATP board.

The ATP is awaiting the court’s ruling on its motion to dismiss the case. If the ATP is unsuccessful, the Florida federal judge would then schedule a court date. The case had been scheduled to begin Feb. 7, but that date has been postponed.

The judge is also expected to rule shortly on a motion by ESPN to unseal documents in the case that purportedly would reveal the names of other ATP players who have gambled. The ATP opposes the motion, contending the judge should first decide whether to dismiss the case. Elgidely says he and his clients support ESPN’s effort.

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