Sometimes the idiocy of entities around bribery strains credulity. Is it really that difficult to connect the dots around bribery and corruption when they are literally slapping you in the face? What does a government or regulatory body have to do to encourage folks to comply with anti-bribery laws such as the FCPA or UK Bribery Act? When it comes to the sport of international tennis, apparently it takes quite a bit.
The New York Times recently reported that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) allowed an umpire, Denis Pitner, who had his certification suspended after an investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to work as an umpire during the 2015 US Open. Pitner was suspended for “sending information on the physical well-being of a player to a coach during a tournament and regularly logging on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches.” This suspension was handed down some four weeks before the US Open began last year.
What was the USTA’s excuse for allowing this suspended umpire from participating in the US Open? It was that up until this year, the ITF expressly forbade public announcements of such suspensions. Further, the IFT apparently did not bother to pass along the information of Pitner’s suspension to the officials at the USTA. Lots of integrity going in international tennis wouldn’t you say?
The Times piece quoted Chris Eaton, executive director of the International Center for Sport Security for the following, “When you create an integrity protection capability, but make it work in secret, with opaque procedures and reporting, this type of fundamental error normally proliferates through ignorance or stupidity, not malice.”
Yet this incredulous behavior by international tennis did not end with Pitner’s participation in the US Open. The Times noted that he has continued to work other international and professional tennis events right up to the month of January of this year. Given the sad and sorry state of corruption in international tennis, one might rightly assume the sport’s governing organizations might place restoring the public’s trust in its integrity right at the top of the list. However it appears they want to keep it all in the shadows.