Tennis pro Souza hit with lifetime ban for match-fixing

27 January 2020

Brazilian tennis player Joao Olavo Soares de Souza has been handed a lifetime ban from the sport by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) after he was convicted of multiple match-fixing and associated corruption offences.

The TIU, the sport’s anti-corruption body, also issued Souza with a $200,000 (£153,057/€181,319) fine after an investigation founded that he breached the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP) numerous times between 2015 and 2019.

Breaches included repeated incidents of match-fixing at ATP Challenger and ITF Futures events held in Brazil, Mexico, the US and Czech Republic.

Aside from match-fixing, Souza was also found to have failed to report corruption approaches, failed to fully co-operate with the TIU, including destroying evidence and also solicited other players to not use best efforts.

Specific breaches of the TACP included Section D.1.d., which states that no player shall attempt to manipulate the outcome of an event, as well as Section D.1.e., which covers a player failing to use their best efforts in any event.

Other TACP breaches included Section D.1.f., which relates to a player accepting money, benefit or consideration with the intention of negatively influencing their efforts in an event.

The TIU also cited TACP Section D.2.a.i., whereby a player is required to report any attempted corruption approaches to the body as soon as possible.

In addition, Souza was found to have breached Section F.2.b., which says players must co-operate with TIU investigations, including giving evidence at hearings. Players are not permitted to tamper with, damage, disable, destroy or otherwise evidence or information related to corruption offences, nor ask any other person to manipulate such evidence.

Independent anti-corruption hearing officer Prof. Richard McLaren issued the ban and fine after hearing the case at a session on 14 January. The ban came into effect on 24 January, with Souza no longer able to compete in or attend any event organised or recognised by a tennis governing body.

The 31-year old was ranked 742 in ATP singles, having reached a career-high of 69 reached in April 2015. As a doubles player, Souza reached his career-high ranking of 70 in January 2013.

Las March, Souza was provisionally suspended from professional tennis, pending completion of the TIU investigation and case against him.

In response to the ruling, the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), the integrity monitoring body formerly known as ESSA, said it welcomed the decision and praised the work of the TIU.

“The IBIA welcomes the decision to impose a lifetime ban and $200,000 fine on Joao Olavo Soares de Souza after a conviction on match-fixing charges,” an IBIA spokesperson said.

“IBIA and its members will continue to work closely with the TIU and the association is confident that the measures being taken by the sport aligned with the detailed customer-based data provided by IBIA members will continue to enable the identification and punishment of betting related corruption in tennis.”

The ruling comes after the TIU last week revealed it received 138 reports over suspicious match activity in 2019, the lowest annual amount since its integrity data was first made public in 2015.

The total for the 12 months to 31 December 2019 was also 47.7% less than the 264 alerts that were raised in 2018.