e Villiers was responding to criticism from tennis legend John McEnroe that the game's integrity had been put on the line by suspicions of collusion linked to online gambling after the launch of a special investigation into Nikolay Davydenko's retirement from July's Prokom Open in Poland and the associated betting patterns.
McEnroe said that the matter was a huge negative for the sport and accused the ATP of negligence and complacency. The gambling issue has seen the appointment of two former Scotland Yard detectives with expertise in organised Eastern European crime syndicates as special investigators. “We have never stopped pursuing every potential and possible avenue to preserve the integrity of our sport,” said De Villiers.
“We have rigorous programmes and severe penalties. We can fine a player up to us$ 100,000 for transgressing the code and a maximum lifetime ban. And, trust me, if we find anyone, be it a player, entourage, anyone, they will have the maximum ban imposed. There's going to be zero tolerance here. This is not something that we in tennis will condone.”
Betfair, the world's biggest internet betting exchange, alerted tennis' governing body after ten times the normal number of bets were placed on the outcome of Davydenko's match against Martin Vassallo Arguello. De Villiers said that agreements had been struck with ten other online gambling concerns.
“We are way ahead of most governing bodies in terms of this issue,” he added. De Villiers also said that the ATP may institute a new rule for anyone who has heard of a gambling approach or incident and does not report it. They could be in violation of the ATP's Integrity Code and subject to a penalty.
"It's like golf," continued De Villiers. "You're not allowed to ignore a rule of golf or overlook it. We saw this coming. We're never going to be complacent."