Match-fixing could kill tennis, says ATP chief

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LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) ATP executive chairman and president Etienne de Villiers has again spoken of his determination to protect tennis from corruption.

The sport has been tarnished in recent weeks by several allegations of match-fixing and De Villiers said the issue was presenting ''a serious threat'' to the game.

''We are in the show business world and the basis for that is integrity,'' he said at a sports industry conference yesterday. ''If we are not true to the values of what our sport stands for, the sport dies.

''Sport endures because of its unpredictability, take that away and you don't have a show.'' On the day that Martina Hingis announced she was retiring after testing positive for cocaine, De Villiers said he viewed match-fixing as a more serious threat than doping.

De Villiers was asked if he could envisage a grand slam final between two players who have served bans for doping.

''There is a code of practice in not just how we pursue drug testing but also the sanctions we put in place,'' he said.

''We take the view that you are allowed to make a mistake and come back. There are a number of reasons that people get into trouble with (doping) and if a kid serves his penance he should be allowed to come back.

''With match-fixing we are categoric and there is no excuse for it. They will be thrown out of tennis because it is plain wrong and we are clear on that.'' A former top 10 player, Mariano Puerta, returned to action last June after a two-year suspension for doping, his second ban.

Puerta, who had previously served a nine-month suspension, tested positive for the banned stimulant etilefrine after his loss to Rafael Nadal in the 2005 French Open final. He had tested positive for anabolic agent clenbuterol in 2003.

Match-fixing came under the spotlight in August after a clash between Russian Nikolay Davydenko and lowly ranked Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland. The match was voided by British online betting exchange Betfair because of unusual betting patterns.

Several players, including former Australian Open runner-up Arnaud Clement, have since said they had turned down offers to throw matches in exchange for money.

Reuters BJR VP0606

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