French Tennis Official Banned for Life Denies Corruption

Morgan Lamri, the first tennis official to be banned for life from the sport for corruption, said he’s innocent and is being used as a scapegoat.

The 22-year-old Frenchman was found guilty of “multiple” breaches of tennis’s anti-corruption program, including betting on matches and match-fixing, the London-based Tennis Integrity Unit said today in an e-mailed statement.

His lifetime ban is effective immediately.

“I am completely innocent,” Lamri said by phone from Toulon, France. “I don’t understand how they can find me guilty without any material proof.”

He added the TIU was using him “to set an example.”

Lamri is listed on the men’s ATP World Tour and the International Tennis Federation as a player. He competed in four tournaments on the ITF Futures circuit for lower-ranked players in Spain and Morocco in 2012 and 2013. He lost every match, two in singles and three in doubles.

Lamri said he works mainly as a disc jockey and played on the ITF circuit whenever he had a week off and would accompany two friends who are French tennis pros.

The relationships between players and officials on the lower rungs of the professional tennis circuit are often “amicable” because there is only a small pool of umpires, Lamri said.

He said he was contacted by the TIU “about a year ago,” after he worked at a Futures events in France, for which he said he would typically earn around 400 euros ($500) a week.

He said he talked to many players last year at a tournament in Saint-Raphael, France.

“For me, they were not players, but just really good friends,” he said. “I would eat lunch with them, I talked with them about all sorts of things, such as life, my friends, my family. They think, because I was talking to the players, that I had talked to them about arranging matches. I have never done that. On the contrary, I talked to them because they were friends.”

Although he said he used to place bets on sports such as soccer, rugby and tennis, he “never” placed wagers on matches he was officiating.

“I placed bets just for my own amusement,” Lamri said. He added his wagers, which varied between one euro to 124 euros, on “the bigger tennis matches,” involving top players such as French Open winner Rafael Nadal of Spain. “I never won money, and it was just for fun.”

The TIU was founded in 2008 after suspicious betting on a match the previous year, when more than a dozen players said publicly that they had been approached to throw matches and the tour banned three Italian players for betting.

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