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IOC calls for crackdown on illegal sports betting

Updated: 2011-03-01 09:45
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GENEVA - The International Olympic Committee is stepping up the global fight against illegal betting and match-fixing in sports, warning of the danger posed by organized crime syndicates.

IOC President Jacques Rogge has called together sports leaders, politicians, licensed betting operators and international police agency Interpol for a special summit meeting Tuesday.

"We need a broad collaboration with governments," said Rogge, who has called illegal betting linked to match-fixing and money laundering a threat comparable to doping.

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"These are mafia links and mafia people and they bet at the same time while manipulating the result of a match," he told reporters in a conference call.

Rogge's initiative comes days after the World Anti-Doping Agency called for the establishment of a global "sports integrity body" to centralize and strengthen anti-corruption efforts.

Sports including football and cricket have been rocked by ongoing criminal investigations into alleged manipulation of matches for betting coups.

Illegal and corrupt betting is believed to be worth tens of billions of dollars annually in wagers placed mainly in eastern Europe and across Asia.

"Sooner or later this might occur at the Olympic Games," Rogge said, adding that the IOC monitored betting patterns during the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics and found nothing suspicious.

Government ministers and officials from Australia, Britain, China, France, Germany and Italy are scheduled to attend Tuesday's meeting at IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

Rogge said those countries led the way by enacting laws to regulate legal online betting, and had powers to investigate criminal gangs beyond the scope of sports federations.

"They can tap telephone calls. They can issue warrants. They can search baggage. We cannot do that," he said. "Out of this core of countries we want progressively to broaden the contacts with states because we need their support."

Rogge said sports organizations should receive "a fair return" from the legal betting industry to help fund their anti-corruption work.

Governing bodies would then have a "moral obligation" to invest in policing their sports.

"A substantial part of the money should go to the prevention of cheating in its own sport," Rogge said.

Some sports organizations, including UEFA and the International Tennis Federation, already have independent investigation units.

The IOC, with its International Sports Monitoring subsidiary, has followed FIFA's Early Warning System in creating a spinoff company to monitor irregular wagers on the legal betting markets.

Rogge said national Olympic bodies and sports federations could enact rules designed to prevent athletes, coaches and officials from betting.

"Sport will have to play its role," he said.

Momentum to intensify anti-corruption efforts increased last week when WADA director general David Howman called for the formation of a World Sports Integrity Agency dealing with illegal betting, bribery and corruption.

Howman said sports did not have the experience, resources or legal power to take on organized crime alone.

"It needs governments, sports organizations and the legitimate gambling industry to unite together to save sport," he said.