‘Flaw in process’ allowed banned umpire to officiate at US Open, Qatar
A tennis umpire who was suspended for a year as part of a betting investigation continued to work at tournaments, including last year’s US Open, the US Tennis Association (USTA) confirmed on Friday.tennis Updated: Feb 13, 2016 10:28 IST
A tennis umpire who was suspended for a year as part of a betting investigation continued to work at tournaments, including last year’s US Open, the US Tennis Association (USTA) confirmed on Friday.
Croatia’s Denis Pitner, banned for a year in August after passing on information about a player’s fitness to a coach and accessing a betting account that was used to place bets on matches, was a line judge at the US Open last September.
He also officiated at last month’s ATP Qatar Open at Doha, Pitner even posting a photograph of himself in the Qatari capital on his Facebook page.
A USTA statement said the national governing body was “shocked” to learn Pitner worked the tournament after being banned and has launched an investigation into how he managed to avoid having his credential revoked.
“After learning within the last 24 hours that an official on the ‘Do Not Credential’ list may have worked at the 2015 US Open as a linesman, the USTA immediately investigated the claim,” the statement said. “The USTA was shocked to find that this was in fact the case.”
Pitner was approved to work at the US Open on July 13 and the USTA was notified Pitner was on the credential ban list on August 24 -- after Pitner had already picked up his credential.
“Due to a flaw in our process, which we are investigating now, Mr. Pitner’s credential was not cancelled. For this reason, he did work as a linesman at the 2015 US Open,” the USTA said.
The incident came to light in a story from the Guardian newspaper in Britain on the same day that the sport’s four governing bodies -- the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Grand Slam Board -- revealed the terms of reference for the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis.
The USTA vowed to work with the review panel to prevent any recurrence of such a blunder, making the probe its top mission.
“The USTA takes this matter extremely seriously and has made the investigation of what caused the error its highest priority and will work with the newly created Independent Review Panel to ensure instances such as this are not repeated in the future,” the statement said.
The ATP men’s tour blamed a “breach in procedures” for Pitner being allowed to work in Doha, with a spokesman confirming to the Guardian it would review the issue.
It’s also understood that Pitner worked at the Super Seniors team championships in Croatia, an amateur tournament for players over 70 held under the auspices of the Croatian Tennis Federation last September.
“The Croatian Federation was informed in August of his suspension. As with the USTA and ATP, we are looking into ways to ensure that this does not happen again,” a spokeswoman for the ITF told the newspaper.
Other woes for review panel
On Tuesday, the ITF said that two umpires had been banned for corruption and four more were currently suspended while under investigation.
Kirill Parfenov of Kazakhstan was banned for life in February 2015 for contacting another official in a bid to “manipulate the scoring of matches”, the ITF said in a joint-statement with the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).
Tennis was also hit by allegations over elite-level match-fixing made by the BBC and BuzzFeed shortly before the start of the Australian Open last month.
That leaves a full plate for the review panel.
“The review will investigate thoroughly the allegations of corruption in international professional tennis and the effectiveness of existing anti-corruption practices and procedures,” the review panel said a statement.
“While there is no fixed deadline for the Independent Review Panel (IRP) to complete its independent review, it is expected that the full review will take at least 12 months with the publication of an interim report during that time.”