AP Images

Europeans unravel massive tennis match-fixing ring

Leave a comment

PARIS — The crooked tennis players knew him as “Maestro.” To European investigators, the Armenian based in Belgium is emerging as the suspected ringleader of an organized gambling syndicate suspected of fixing hundreds of matches and paying off more than 100 players from around Europe.

As Roger Federer and other stars at the top of tennis compete in the Australian Open, players far lower down the sport’s food chain are being questioned this week by police in France on suspicion of fixing matches for Grigor Sargsyan, 28-year-old known as the Maestro, investigators said. Sargsyan is being held in a Belgian jail.

The picture emerging from months of digging by police working across Europe is of a massive match-fixing scheme, organized via encrypted messaging, involving dozens of low-ranked players in small tournaments with little prize money. Police say Sargsyan employed mules, people hired for a few euros (dollars) to place bets for the syndicate that were small enough to slip under the radar of gambling watchdogs.

Sources close to the investigation, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss details publicly, said four French players were in police custody on Wednesday and at least one of them told investigators that he fixed around two dozen matches for Sargsyan.

They named the players as Jules Okala, 21; Mick Lescure, 25; Yannick Thivant, 31; and Jerome Inzerillo, 28. None operated in the highest spheres of tennis. The career-best singles ranking of any of them was 354, reached by Inzerillo in 2012. The arrests of Okala and Lescure were first reported Wednesday by French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

A dozen or more other French players are expected to be questioned in coming weeks. An investigator said France was one of the countries “hardest hit” by the syndicate, which targeted lower-level pro tournaments. Okala and Lescure were detained before they were to play in a modest tournament in Bressuire, western France, this week that offers a total of $15,000 in prize money.

Investigators have also questioned players in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, and Bulgaria and are looking to question others, including both players and managers, in the United States, Chile and Egypt.

In all, more than 100 players are suspected of having worked with the syndicate, fixing matches, sets or games in exchange for payments of 500 to 3,000 euros ($570 to $3,400).

“The impression we’re getting is that it is very commonplace,” one official told The Associated Press. Another said several hundred matches are thought to have been fixed.

Investigators fear that players used by the syndicate could suck others into the scheme and could go on to infect bigger tournaments if they climb higher in the rankings.

“In time, they could be managers of other new players or trainers so we have to get them out of the system, or they could corrupt others in a few years,” one official told The Associated Press.

Sargsyan was swept up in a wave of arrests in Belgium last June and faces organized crime, match fixing, money laundering and forgery charges. A suspected banker for the syndicate also faces money laundering and organized crime charges, while four others are being investigated for illegal gambling and finding mules, who are thought to have been paid for placing modest bets for the syndicate on matches that it fixed.

Because the bets were small, the risk of detection was “almost zero,” but the profits could still be considerable if many bets were placed, one official said.

Still unclear is whether the Belgium-based syndicate was linked to another match-fixing and gambling operation, also involving Armenians, unraveled in Spain . Spanish police last week announced that 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year’s U.S. Open, were linked to that ring, taking bribes to fix results that the group bet on using fake identities.

Vincent Zhou withdraws from 2019 Grand Prix events

AP
Leave a comment

Reigning World bronze medalist Vincent Zhou withdrew from his fall Grand Prix assignments, Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup, U.S. Figure Skating announced on Thursday.

“It’s really difficult to balance classes and training at the same time,” said Zhou, who is in the middle of his freshman year at Brown University. “I want to perform at the highest level on the ice and in the classroom, and I have not been able to dedicate the necessary time to my skating with my rigorous class schedule. Unfortunately, the timing of my midterms has fallen right in the middle of an important training period for me this fall. This was a tough decision because I love to perform in front of the fans, but this is the best decision for me right now.”

Cup of China is set for Nov. 8-10 in Chongqing, China, while Rostelecom Cup will take place in Moscow, Nov. 15-17. While Skate America concluded this weekend in Las Vegas, next weekend, the skating world turns to Kelowna, British Columbia for Skate Canada.

MORE: Final Skate America takeaways

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2019-20 Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will combine to air every Alpine skiing World Cup race this season.

Coverage is spread among NBC, NBCSN and Olympic Channel. Every race streams live on NBC Sports Gold’s “Snow Pass.”

Mikaela Shiffrin headlines the October-through-March circuit that includes stops in the U.S. (Killington, Vt., for the women and Beaver Creek, Colo., for the men).

Shiffrin eyes her fourth straight World Cup overall title — not done by a woman in 45 years — and will likely ascend to No. 3 on the career wins list behind Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn.

The retirements of Vonn, Marcel Hirscher and Aksel Lund Svindal leave openings for other young skiers to fill as the Winter Olympic cycle hits its midpoint.

MORE: NBC Sports Gold launches 2019-20 Snow Pass

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2019-20 Alpine skiing World Cup broadcast schedule

Date Time (ET) Event Network
Oct. 26 5 a.m. Women’s GS – Soelden NBC Sports Gold
Oct. 27 5 a.m. Men’s GS – Soelden NBC Sports Gold
Nov. 23 7 a.m. Women’s SL – Levi Olympic Channel
6 p.m.* Women’s SL – Levi NBCSN
Nov. 24 7 a.m. Men’s SL – Levi Olympic Channel
Nov. 30 12:30 p.m. Women’s GS – Killington NBCSN
2 p.m. Men’s DH — Lake Louise Olympic Channel
3:30 p.m.* Women’s GS – Killington NBC
6 p.m.* Women’s GS – Killington Olympic Channel
9 p.m.* Men’s DH — Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 1 12:30 p.m. Women’s SL – Killington NBC
2 p.m. Men’s SG — Lake Louise NBC
6 p.m.* Men’s SG — Lake Louise Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m.* Women’s SL – Killington NBCSN
Dec. 6 12:30 p.m. Men’s SG – Beaver Creek NBCSN
2:30 p.m. Women’s DH – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
11 p.m.* Women’s DH – Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 7 1 p.m. Men’s DH – Beaver Creek Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Women’s DH – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
11 p.m.* Men’s DH – Beaver Creek NBCSN
Dec. 8 1 p.m. Women’s SG – Lake Louise Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Men’s GS – Beaver Creek Olympic Channel
5 p.m.* Men’s GS – Beaver Creek NBC
6 p.m.* Women’s SG – Lake Louise NBCSN
Dec. 14 4:30 a.m. Women’s SG – St. Moritz Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s GS — Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
9:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – St. Moritz NBCSN
Dec. 15 6:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
7:30 a.m. Women’s PSL – St. Moritz Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Women’s PSL – St. Moritz NBCSN
Dec. 17 7:30 a.m. Women’s GS — Courchevel Olympic Channe
6 p.m.* Women’s GS — Courchevel NBCSN
Dec. 20 6 a.m. Men’s SG — Val Gardena Olympic Channel
Dec. 21 4:30 a.m. Women’s DH – Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
5:45 a.m. Men’s DH — Val Gardena Olympic Channel
8:30 p.m.* Men’s DH — Val Gardena NBCSN
Dec. 22 6 a.m. Men’s GS – Alta Badia Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Women’s SC – Val d’Isere Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m.* Women’s SC – Val d’Isere NBCSN
Dec. 23 12 p.m. Men’s PGS – Alta Badia Olympic Channel
Dec. 28 4:15 a.m. Women’s GS – Lienz NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Bormio Olympic Channel
Dec. 29 4 a.m. Women’s SL — Lienz NBC Sports Gold
8 a.m. Men’s SC – Bormio Olympic Channel
Jan. 4 10 a.m. Women’s SL — Zagreb Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s SL — Zagreb NBCSN
Jan. 5 11:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Zagreb Olympic Channel
Jan. 6 1 a.m.* Men’s SL — Zagreb NBCSN
Jan. 8 2:30 p.m. Men’s SL – Madonna di Campiglio Olympic Channel
Jan. 11 5:45 a.m. Women’s DH — Altenmarkt NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s GS — Adelboden Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m.* Men’s GS — Adelboden NBCSN
Jan. 12 3:15 a.m. Women’s SC — Altenmarkt NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Adelboden Olympic Channel
Jan. 13 1 a.m.* Men’s SL — Adelboden NBCSN
Jan. 14 12 p.m.* Women’s SL — Flachau NBC Sports Gold
Jan. 17 8 a.m. Men’s SC — Wengen Olympic Channel
Jan. 18 6:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Wengen Olympic Channel
8 a.m. Women’s GS — Sestriere Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Men’s DH — Wengen NBCSN
9 p.m.* Women’s GS — Sestriere NBCSN
Jan. 19 5:30 a.m. Women’s PSL — Sestriere Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL — Wengen Olympic Channel
8 p.m.* Women’s PSL — Sestriere NBCSN
9 p.m.* Men’s SL — Wengen NBCSN
Jan. 24 5:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
Jan. 25 3:30 a.m. Women’s DH – Bansko Olympic Channel
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
9 a.m.* Women’s DH – Bansko NBCSN
Jan. 26 3 a.m. Women’s SG – Bansko Olympic Channel
4:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Kitzbuehel NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – Bansko NBCSN
Jan. 27 1 p.m.* Men’s DH/SG – Kitzbuehel NBCSN
3 p.m.* Men’s SL – Kitzbuehel NBCSN
Jan. 28 11:45 a.m. Men’s SL — Schladming NBC Sports Gold
Feb. 1 3:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Rosa Khutor Olympic Channel
5:30 a.m. Men’s DH – Garmisch Olympic Channel
12:30 p.m.* Men’s DH – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 2 3 a.m. Women’s SG — Rosa Khutor Olympic Channel
7:30 a.m. Men’s GS – Garmisch Olympic Channel
4 p.m.* Men’s GS – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 8 5:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Garmisch Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL – Chamonix Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s DH — Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 9 5 a.m. Women’s SG – Garmisch Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s PGS — Chamonix Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m.* Women’s SG – Garmisch NBCSN
Feb. 14 10 p.m. Men’s DH — Yanqing Olympic Channel
Feb. 15 7 a.m. Women’s GS – Maribor Olympic Channel
10 p.m. Men’s SG — Yanqing NBCSN
11:30 p.m.* Women’s GS — Maribor NBCSN
Feb. 16 7:30 a.m. Women’s SL — Maribor Olympic Channel
9:30 p.m.* Women’s SL — Maribor NBCSN
Feb. 21 11 p.m. Men’s GS — Naeba Olympic Channel
Feb. 22 4:30 a.m. Women’s DH — Crans-Montana Olympic Channel
11 p.m. Men’s SL — Naeba Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m.* Women’s DH — Crans-Montana NBCSN
Feb. 23 7:30 a.m. Women’s SC — Crans-Montana Olympic Channel
4:30 p.m.* Women’s SC — Crans-Montana NBCSN
Feb. 29 4:30 a.m. Women’s SG — La Thuile Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Hinterstoder NBC Sports Gold
March 1 12 a.m.* Women’s SG — La Thuile NBCSN
3:45 a.m. Men’s SC — Hinterstoder NBC Sports Gold
8 a.m. Women’s SC — La Thuile Olympic Channel
March 7 5 a.m. Men’s DH — Kvitfjell Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Women’s GS — Ofterschwang Olympic Channel
March 8 12 a.m.* Women’s GS — Ofterschwang NBCSN
1 a.m.* Men’s DH — Kvitfjell NBCSN
4:30 a.m. Men’s SG — Kvitfjell Olympic Channel
6:30 a.m. Women’s SL — Ofterschwang Olympic Channel
March 9 1 a.m.* Women’s SL — Ofterschwang NBCSN
March 12 8 a.m. Women’s PSL — Are NBC Sports Gold
March 13 11 a.m. Women’s GS — Are Olympic Channel
5 p.m.* Women’s GS — Are NBCSN
March 14 10 a.m. Men’s GS — Kranjska Gora Olympic Channel
11 a.m. Women’s SL — Are Olympic Channel
March 15 3:30 a.m. Men’s SL — Kranjska Gora NBC Sports Gold
March 18 3:30 a.m. Men’s DH — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
5 a.m. Women’s DH – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m.* Men’s DH — World Cup Finals NBCSN
3:30 p.m.* Women’s DH – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 19 4 a.m. Women’s SG – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
5 a.m. Men’s SG – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
11 a.m.* Women’s SG – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 20 6 a.m. Team Event – World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
11 a.m.* Team Event – World Cup Finals NBCSN
March 21 6 a.m. Men’s GS — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Women’s SL — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
March 22 12 a.m.* Men’s GS — World Cup Finals NBCSN
1 a.m.* Women’s SL — World Cup Finals NBCSN
6 a.m. Women’s GS — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
7 a.m. Men’s SL — World Cup Finals Olympic Channel
March 23 12 a.m.* Women’s GS – World Cup Finals NBCSN

*Delayed broadcast