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IMG Shows Strength as ATP Puppet Board Refuses to Self-Investigate

Nov 24, 2010 – 2:23 PM
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch %BloggerTitle%

Ted ForstmannA major sports gambling scandal with a nice, neat and quick conclusion. No mess, no fuss. Does that pass the smell test?

The ATP World Tour, the men's tennis tour, is trying to slip one past you. Ted Forstmann, the CEO of IMG (pictured), bet on tennis. He allegedly called Roger Federer, an IMG client who Forstmann says is a friend, before a match and got inside information.

And apparently, there is no investigation; not of Forstmann, not of Federer. None of tennis' governing bodies has even bothered to call the guy making the accusation, while the things he has said keep turning out to be true.

I'm calling B.S. on the ATP. There is no way this was within the rules. So why is the ATP letting it go?

Maybe Gavin Forbes knows. He's a Senior Vice President at IMG.

Maybe David Egdes knows. He's an executive at the Tennis Channel, which is partially owned by IMG. He also used to work for IMG.

Or maybe Justin Gimelstob knows. He's a former player who had IMG as his agent.

Couch on IMG Gambling Scandal

NCAA the Ultimate Hypocrite
Tennis Must Cut Ties With IMG
Forstmann's Alleged Hush Money
IMG Admits Bets, Tennis Looks Away
IMG Dirtying Federer's Name
And know this: Other than their connection with IMG, these three men have one other thing in common.

They all are on the ATP Board of Directors. In fact, they form half of the six-member board.

Talk about your puppet regime. How does ATP head Adam Helfant look in the mirror?

This is a colossal conflict of interest, the kind that demanded the tour take immediate and offensive action and say, "We are not in position to govern ourselves on this. We need to go to an arbitrator, a neutral party. Now that George Mitchell is done with baseball's steroids report, what is he up to?''

Instead, the ATP has said there were no rules prohibiting Forstmann's bets before 2009, and since the bet on Federer took place in 2007, well, what can we do? It said that Forstmann said he hasn't bet since then.

Forstmann said? That doesn't count.

The ATP also gave Forstmann a stern warning not to keep it up.

I'm sure he's shaking.

Tennis is just one big happy incestuous family. What started as a lawsuit with an accusation of gambling has turned into a fullscale scandal, now with the appearance of a systemic coverup.
Tennis is just one big happy incestuous family. What started as a lawsuit with an accusation of gambling has turned into a full-scale scandal, now with the appearance of a systemic coverup.

Every action is called into question. Or, every non-action. The IMG-run board decided not to investigate or punish IMG's CEO? In other words, the board members are not going after their boss.

And how is it even possible that there is no investigation into Federer? Easy: Federer is an IMG client.

Let me say again: None of tennis' governing bodies has even called the guy who made the accusations. That guy is Jim Agate, who has filed a lawsuit against Forstmann. In the suit, Agate said Forstmann bet $40,000 on Federer to beat Rafael Nadal, another IMG client, in the 2007 French Open. Forstmann has admitted that to be true.

Agate said that Forstmann used him as a go-between with gamblers, to place bets for him. Forstmann has admitted that, too.

And Agate said that on the one bet in question -- and there allegedly were hundreds of bets covering several sports -- Forstmann told him he was betting more than usual because he had talked with Federer, gotten info. Forstmann has denied that, but said that he and Federer are friends. At one point, he said he might have called Federer before the match just to say hi and wish luck.

So is Federer guilty? Who knows? But the ATP simply assumes that Federer didn't do it.

And a handful of low-ranked Italian players might have a theory about this.

Five low-ranked Italian players who were suspended or fined for making small bets on tennis matches have alleged in a lawsuit that the ATP went after them to appear tough on gambling. (One of the Italian players has since died, but his wife carries on the suit.)

At the same time, they allege, the ATP knew that bigger-name players were betting, but covered that up. The Italians were busted in 2007, the year Forstmann bet on Federer.

Federer says he has nothing to do with this, and that he has called Forstmann to demand details.

See? Even Federer knows how to make a phone call to investigate.

This story is finally gaining steam in the media, and it's just going to get bigger. Forstmann and IMG are dragging Federer's name into the mud. Agate's attorneys plan to inform Federer that he will be expected to sit for a deposition. Forstmann's deposition is set for Dec. 13.

If Federer didn't do anything, it's going to take an independent investigator to say so.

After match-fixing allegations against top player Nikolay Davydenko -- who was later cleared -- the sport's governing bodies formed the Tennis Integrity Unit to police gambling.

A TIU spokesman said the unit does not have jurisdiction over things that happened before Jan. 1, 2009. The ATP said there was no rule prohibiting a player's agent from betting on tennis before that date. Besides, it said, the International Tennis Federation controls majors. The ITF said its rules didn't cover agents back then.

It's a shell game. Raise all three shells, though, and you find that responsibility doesn't rest under any of them.

But look, the ATP is a unique sports organization meant to balance power between players and tournaments. IMG is not just an agent for players, but also owns several pro tournaments. On top of that, it lists the United States Tennis Association and the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, which run the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, as clients.

IMG, in fact, is the ATP tour. It's an owner. And it's hard to buy that the ATP didn't have rules prohibiting itself from betting on tennis.

The ATP says that rules in 2007 covered only players and their immediate traveling party. Actually, the 2007 rulebook says they covered players and "Player Support Personnel.''

That sounds like an agent to me.

Meanwhile, Forstmann's crisis-management team told me that a review of his phone records showed he never did call Federer before that French Open final, and that evidence is in the court documents.

So I got a copy of those documents. In them, Forstmann's lawyers say that records show there was no call, but offer no copies of phone bills. Does that mean Forstmann's home phone or his cellphone? Did it include secretary's phones, or his assistant's?

Makes you wonder exactly who conducted this "review'' anyway.

Was it the ATP board?

E-mail me at gregcouch09@aol.com. Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch

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