And the whole way, the credibility of sport is jeopardized.
"If you go back and look at the history of Pete Rose, he started by saying he's not gambling, he never gambled,'' said Arnie Wexler, a leading expert on excessive and compulsive gambling. "Compulsive gamblers are great liars.''
The thing is, I wasn't asking him about Pete Rose. The topic was Ted Forstmann, the CEO of IMG, and one of the most powerful men in sports. Forstmann is at the center of a sports gambling scandal that is connected with tennis, but also with most other major sports.
Forstmann definitely bet on sports, as his own vice president has told me he has admitted to making a $40,000 bet on the 2007 French Open final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both IMG clients. He also is accused in a lawsuit of calling Federer before the match to get inside information. Forstmann and Federer have denied that.
When talking details about Forstmann, though, Wexler is the one who kept making connections, kept bringing up Rose.
Forstmann is tennis' Pete Rose.
"He's trying to make a fool out of everybody,'' Wexler said.
And several sports governing bodies are simply buying into Forstmann's extremely hard-to-believe claims that his sports betting was all in the past. Nothing would make tennis happier than to believe that, so the sport closes its eyes really tight and wishes really, really hard.
But at the same time that he claims to have stopped, he also defends it by saying there was nothing wrong with it. So which is it?
Tennis isn't the only sport trying to play pretend here. Forstmann also is alleged to have bet heavily on NCAA basketball and football, Major League Baseball and the NFL. He also has admitted to betting on golf.
Any action from anyone?
The PGA Tour? No.
The NFL? No.
Not unless you count IMG announcing that its employees can no longer bet on college sports. It's unclear how much of that was pressure from the NCAA and how much was IMG PR. IMG serves as the agent for many college football and basketball coaches and also is the leader in licensing the NCAA and several university athletic departments.
Tennis said that if Forstmann ever does it again, he'll be in trouble. That's not even a slap on the wrist, but more a kissing of the ring.
"None of the leagues want to do anything,'' Wexler said, "because they're afraid you guys (the media) will say there's gambling involved. So they do nothing.
"I've dealt with the NCAA for years, and they might be the biggest (BSers) of all.''
Listen to some of the interviews Forstmann has conducted, and see if they add up. As far as I can tell, he has done three interviews in which he has talked about his gambling.
Tennis points out that its rules didn't prohibit player agents from betting until 2009. The rules did prohibit "player support personnel'' from gambling, though, and IMG isn't just an agent, but also owns several events on tour.
The Tennis Integrity Unit says that Forstmann said he hadn't bet on tennis since before 2009. Meanwhile, his crisis-management people told me that "Any bets that Mr. Forstmann may have made on college sports would have been made before IMG acquired the (IMG College) business in 2007 ... He has made none since that time.''
Note how carefully that doesn't actually acknowledge any bets on college sports in the first place, or deny the allegation in the lawsuit that he bet over $150,000 on the NCAA men's basketball tournament one month before IMG College was announced.
Forstmann himself told Bloomberg that he made "a bet on a friend (Federer),'' emphasizing the "a'' each time. Asked if that bet from the 2007 French final was his last, he said this:
Well, probably not. The gambling allegations against Forstmann came up in a lawsuit filed by Agate Printing in Los Angeles, run by Jim Agate. In the suit, Agate claims that Forstmann used him to make hundreds of bets, wiring the money into his company's accounts and leading to tax liability. Forstmann has acknowledged to Bloomberg that he used Agate for a bet.
FanHouse has come into possession of what appears to be a voicemail from Forstmann to Agate on Sept. 9, 2007, several months after the Federer-Nadal match. The tape is expected to be used as evidence in the trial, assuming the case isn't resolved by an arbitrator first. Several such tapes are expected to be used.
In this one, the voice that sounds as if it is Forstmann, says this:
"Hey, I never heard exactly what these bets ... where I know I got 10 each on uh, the uh, Mets and uh, Red Sox. I don't know what the odds are. And then I know what the ... I had 20 on the Patriots. But I don't know what the odds are on that either.
So, could you just call and confirm please? Thank you.''
The tape does not specify what year it was, but all three teams did play that day in 2007.
So Forstmann is alleged to have made hundreds of bets in the years leading up to that. And then, poof, just cut it off right there, even though he says he was doing nothing wrong? Is that believable?
Forstmann told the dailybeast.com that he has had a hobby since college of betting on sports.
He also ran an annual charity pro-am tennis tournament, using tour players, known as the Huggy Bear in the Hamptons shortly before the U.S. Open. Heavy gambling was an open secret at the Huggy Bear, with Calcutta style betting. People would bid on the team they thought would win, and all the money bid would go into a pot. A bettor then becomes the owner of that doubles team, with players usually given a chance to buy in.
I asked the Tennis Integrity Unit if touring players, agents or tournament owners are allowed to gamble on tennis in charity events.
The TIU did not respond.
On Oct. 10. 1988, New York magazine detailed the day's events that year. Forstmann's brother, Tony, ran the Huggy Bear then, but the article says that Ted Forstmann bet $150,000 that day. John McEnroe played.
Forstmann told CNBC's Darren Rovell that he placed "very modest bets,'' in his life. "I'm not a big gambler. ...
"The governing bodies have looked into what happened and uniformly said stop what you're doing, but you haven't done anything wrong. I placed my last bet almost four years ago.''
He also pointed out that newspapers run the sports betting lines, "so what are we talking about here?''
Forstmann does not sound like someone who placed "A" bet on "A" friend in his life.
Wexler notes that if Forstmann used Agate to place bets, it suggests "he knows he shouldn't be placing the bets himself.''
But what difference does it make if Forstmann bets on sports?
"It's an issue for all the sports,'' Wexler said. "(He is in) position to have information that all the other people don't have.
"Does that say the games are fixed, or shenanigans are going on? It's a possibility. Like Pete Rose, he said he only bet on the Reds (to win). But he had the possibility to do all different things as manager.''
At least baseball didn't play pretend on its Pete Rose.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @gregcouch