Monday 20 November 2017

Stephen Lee vows to fight 'totally outrageous' match-fixing claims after devastating 12-year ban

Stephen Lee has vowed to fight the ban imposed on him
Stephen Lee has vowed to fight the ban imposed on him

Ben Rumsby

A furious Stephen Lee has vowed to fight the longest ban in the history of the game after claiming he was "totally innocent" of match-fixing and the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The 38-year-old was handed a 12-year suspension after being found guilty of seven counts of deliberately losing frames or matches, including at the World Championships.

Lee, who will be 50 when the ban expires, admitted the sanction would effectively kill his career and immediately announced his intention to appeal against last week's independent tribunal verdict.

He also lashed out at a process he branded "totally outrageous," revealing his children had been teased over his ordeal, and claiming there were "no facts" to justify him being found guilty.

Lee (right), who was in financial difficulties at the time of the offences in 2008 and 2009, insisted he had done nothing wrong and is expected to make a statement tomorrow.

He said: "I'm absolutely devastated. I'll be meeting with my QC and we're going to look at the whole picture and start making some big holes – they've got no facts. I've done nothing wrong. I'm totally innocent.

"My kids are getting picked on at school and it's totally outrageous what I've been put through. I didn't have a lawyer to represent me. I believe if I'd had a lawyer in there, it'd have been a different outcome completely."

Lee revealed he planned to sell his story to a newspaper, which would "paint the full picture", adding of his punishment: "It's over, isn't it? My career's over."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn warned Lee that any appeal could also result in his sanction being increased after tribunal chairman Adam Lewis QC refrained from issuing a lifetime ban.

"Appeals can go either way, can't they?" Hearn said, adding that he fully endorsed the tribunal's findings.

That was despite the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) having pushed for Lee to be handed the ultimate sanction. WPBSA head of disciplinary Nigel Mawer, said: "We did say we were seeking a life ban because it was seven matches that had been fixed, including during the World Championships.

"But, in effect, it is a life ban because I think it is highly unlikely that Stephen Lee will be able to come back to the sport at this level.

"We don't take great pleasure out of that – this is a case of a fantastic snooker player who has thrown it all away through making the wrong decisions. It is only human to have a degree of sympathy for him and it is going to be very difficult for him, but we have to send a very strong message that match-fixing is not going to be tolerated."

Mawer added that he believed snooker was overwhelmingly a clean sport. "Hand on heart, I believe it is a very, very clean sport – I have only had to investigate four incidents in 7,000 matches and two of those have led to suspensions, which puts it in context."

In his written findings of the case, Lewis noted Lee was in a "financially perilous state."

"In all the circumstances, I do not regard a lifetime ban as proportionate, or as necessary in order to deter," he wrote. "On the other hand, I do regard a ban of a lengthy period to be both necessary in order to deter and as proportionate in the circumstances of the case."

Lee refused to make details of bank accounts available to the tribunal and was branded an "unreliable" witness, and a "weak" man who had been taken advantage of by others.

Lewis' findings stated: "These breaches occurred when Mr Lee was in a financially perilous state not entirely of his own making and was finding it difficult to obtain entry to enough tournaments. As a weak man in a vulnerable position, he succumbed to temptation. I consider it unlikely that he was the prime mover or instigator of the activity." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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