It has been said that the only things standing between you and your dream are your fears. That may be true, but for Morgan Lamri, it appears the biggest obstacle may be the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).
Headline from TIU.
French tennis official Morgan Lamri has been banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of multiple offenses under the Uniform Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (Program).
Quote from Lamri:
“I am completely innocent. I don’t understand how they can find me guilty without any material proof.”
Morgan Lamri in an interview to Bloomberg.com’s Danielle Rossingh as reported by The Guardian.
Without an appeal, it would appear that Morgan Lamri’s tennis dreams have turned into tennis nightmares. Lamri has said that he will appeal according to this article
What does an appeal look like in this type of case and what is Lamri up against? Once charged with a corruption offense by the TIU, what is one’s recourse? If Lamri is innocent, as quoted in the Guardian above, what options are there to clear his name now that a ruling has been issued against him? I will not address whether Morgan Lamri is guilty or not. Obviously I am not in a position to cast any such judgment. I will try to outline the various steps in the disciplinary process so that you will see what the road ahead for Lamri looks like should he undertake an appeal.
This short article will provide an introduction to the TIU and a short outline of the process available to anyone accused by the TIU. In future articles, the issues of corruption and due process will be discussed a little more in depth. At the end of this article, I will provide a recent law review article with a more scholarly look at recent issues on this topic if you are interested in exploring the subject further.
An introduction to the Tennis Integrity Unit
The Tennis Integrity Unit
“In September 2008 the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was formed as a joint initiative of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the ATP, the WTA and the Grand Slam Board.” http://www.tennisintegrityunit.com/about-us/
“…the Unit has a global brief to protect the sport from all forms of betting-related corrupt practices.” Id.
The Disciplinary Process, Investigation, and Procedure
The following is a short summary of the process which may be found at www.tennisintegrityunit.com.
A covered person is any player or official subject to the rules. The TIU only has authority granted to it by contract, so of course if someone not bound to the rules commits an offense, such an offense would not be subject to the TIU process and would be left to other enforcement authorities to deal with.
The charging party in corruption cases is the TIU. Through the Tennis Integrity Board (TIB), the TIU delegates certain responsibilities to a hearing officer. An Anti-Corruption Hearing Officer (AHO) is appointed by the (TIB) for an initial, renewable, two-year period. It is the job of the AHO to determine if a Corruption Offense has been committed and to fix the sanctions for such offense(s), after an officer has conducted an investigation.
When an investigation begins, the TIU is tasked with conducting interviews with covered persons, such as players and officials subject to these rules. This work is undertaken by a Professional Tennis Integrity Officer (PTIO), which is appointed by each governing body (ATP, WTA, etc.).
The interviews are to be recorded, and the covered person has a right to counsel for attendance at the interview and the right to request an interpreter if needed. The TIU may demand that a covered person produce various evidentiary items such as documents, bank statements, bills, receipts, or any other records, and a written statement regarding the circumstances. By participating in an event (a tennis tournament), a covered person waives rights he or she may have in any jurisdiction which would provide privacy for certain information. Additionally, under the rules, a covered person may be deemed ineligible to play for failure to produce the demanded information.
When the investigation concludes that there is likely a corruption offense, then the matter is referred to the AHO. The accused is provided notice of the accusation and given an opportunity to be heard.
It is important to note, from a defense standpoint, that every step outlined in the process is vital for Due Process to be afforded to the accused, and any failure in the process could be fatal. (In other words, it is best to get a good lawyer, quickly, if you get a notice from the TIU).
Failing to respond to the Notice serves much like a forfeit; you probably don’t want to do that if you want to win. The civil litigation term is “default” which means you waive your right to present defenses and admit to everything in the Complaint. In the response a hearing must be requested if one is sought.
Hearings are confidential, and will take place in either Miami, Florida or London, England. The covered person has a right to appear and to be represented by counsel at his or her own expense. This is an important issue for underfunded individuals who are more likely to not respond to the Notice due to concerns over legal fees.
The standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence. Rules of Evidence of any jurisdiction do not apply and facts may be established by any reliable means.
Appealing the Decision
Appeals are strictly limited to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Court of Arbitration for Sport
One of the modern developments in international sports law is the creation of a tribunal specifically designed to help parties resolve sport-related disputes. The tribunal is called the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). As with all methods of alternative dispute resolution, participation is by agreement, or contract. Typically, one submits to the jurisdiction of the CAS through participation in sporting events through their national tennis association, which are generally members of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). For a full membership list please see this page.
An appeal of the decision of the TIU must be made within 20 days from the date of the receipt of the decision by the appealing party. The decision of the CAS is final. Should a party be unhappy with the result in the CAS, there is limited recourse available.
There are limited exceptions to when a state or federal court (or civil court, whatever it may be called in your jurisdiction) may take up a cause following an arbitration proceeding. The appellate remedies as described on the CAS website are as follows:
“Judicial recourse to the Swiss Federal Tribunal is allowed on a very limited number of grounds, such as lack of jurisdiction, violation of elementary procedural rules (e.g. violation of the right to a fair hearing) or incompatibility with public policy.” http://www.tas-cas.org/en/20questions.asp/4-3-231-1010-4-1-1/5-0-1010-13-0-0/
There may be recourse in some circumstances in other courts but this is an uphill battle and well beyond the limited scope of this article.
The preceding was a short summary of the disciplinary process, the complete details of which may be found here.
Corruption offenses can also be prosecuted by local authorities, and certainly the TIU does not have exclusive jurisdiction over such offenses. Today we saw this in the case of Matthew Fox in Melbourne, Australia. He was fined by the Melbourne Magistrates Court for betting and drugs. See https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25715385/ex-tennis-player-fined-over-betting-drugs/
Betting on Tennis alone is a multi-billion dollar business. It is important that the tennis community work to maintain the integrity of the game in a way that respects the rule of law and respects an individual’s right to due process. Like all professions, educating professionals on the risks of their profession is important. The tennis community should continue working to educate young tennis players on ethics in their profession and this should include education about match-fixing and corruption.
For a look at more issues related to the TIU, please see Match-Fixing and Corruption in Professional Tennis, By Cecilia Ehresman.
For a detailed overview of the CAS, please see International Sports Justice: The Court of Arbitration for Sport, by Massimo Coccia.