Lee Suspended In Probe Of Match With Four-Time World Snooker Champ Higgins
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/30/2012 -- Stephen Lee, the world’s seventh-rated snooker professional, is under investigation by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. The investigation is due to what the sport’s governing body said were suspicious betting patterns in an October 11 PartyPoker.com Premier League match in Malvern, Worcestershire. The match involved Lee and four-time Snooker World Champion and currently third-ranked pro John Higgins.
The WPBSA has voided the result of the match, won 4-2 by Higgins, and suspended Lee, saying it would be inappropriate to let him continue competing on the World Snooker Tour while the probe was being conducted. Last week a panel appointed by the governing body rejected an appeal asking the lifting of the suspension, saying it “will remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings."
In the Malvern match, Lee led 2-1 at one point and later seemed on the verge of a 3-3 draw, but missed an easy pink and black combination shot, opening the way for Higgins’ victory. Press accounts report a series of tweets by rival pro Judd Trump immediately raised questions about Lee's performance. The WPBSA reportedly is looking into reports large sums were bet on Higgins shortly before the match.
The latest charges hit Lee on his 38th birthday and led him to cancel a planned trip to compete in a tournament in Antwerp. The hefty pro’s manager said his player was "absolutely devastated" by the suspension, which came only a week after it was announced he would not face criminal match-fixing charges from allegations dating back to 2010. The WPBSA has also started looking into those earlier allegations. Lee’s camp said all charges will be vigorously opposed.
Higgins, the 37-year-old pro from Wishaw, Scotland, won the Premier League title in 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2011, and plans to seek a fifth world championship in April. Last month won the Shanghai Masters, besting Judd Trump, and was reported to be in top form.
In 2010, the British tabloid News of the World said it had staged a sting operation, using an undercover team posing as sports promoters, and claimed at a meeting in Kiev Higgins and his manager had agreed to a game-fixing scheme. Higgins countered he had played along at the meeting for fear the undercover team were members of the Russian mafia. Although suspended for six months during the probe, he was ultimately found to have merely failed to report the incident. Higgins is reported not to be under suspicion in the last allegations.
At the Malvern match, the first held in Worcestershire in three years, Chinese star Ding Junhui improved his chances to capture the Premier League title by defeating current top-rated snooker star Mark Selby, 4-2.
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