London: Five-time world champion Ronnie O`Sullivan has been asked by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association to prove his claim that Stephen Lee may not be the only top-level cueist to be involved in match-fixing, or face possible sanction over his response.
Former world number five Lee was yesterday found guilty of fixing seven snooker matches in 2008 and 2009 by the disciplinary committee of the WPBSA.
England`s Lee faces a lifetime ban after the verdict was confirmed by Nigel Mawer, the chairman of the disciplinary committee. The sanction will be announced at a separate hearing on September 24.
Following comments made by O`Sullivan on Twitter, World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn today said, "We take these type of allegations very seriously. We have written to Ronnie asking him to explain his comments and to provide details of any match fixing and the names of the players that he is referring to.
"Clearly, to make these type of allegations without informing the Governing Body through the correct channels is wholly unacceptable and extremely damaging to the sport. We await his response. We will not be making any further comment on this matter until it has been investigated further," Hearn said in a statement.
Reigning world champion O`Sullivan had claimed the scale of match-fixing in the sport could be much bigger than what people suspected and Lee`s case may not be the only one.
He accused the snooker authorities of not doing enough to bring corruption in the sport to light.
"I`ve heard there`s many more players who throw snooker matches .. I suppose Steve lee was just caught out," O`Sullivan wrote on his twitter account.
"I just love putting it out there bring it all out in the open.. Nothing like a bit of transparency is what I say. No need to worry if you got nothing to hide. But plenty of people have got loads to hide. That`s why there is no free speech. There (sic) hiding. They will prob fine me for talking about it.. They don`t like you doing that.. Like to keep things under the carpet.." he added.
After Hearn`s statement today, O`Sullivan again took the social networking site and wrote: "No concrete evidence of match fixing in snooker. Don`t give a damn I`m not a Zionist Which will eventually get me hung out to dry But I will keep winning tournaments and entertain the people."
Lee was charged following an investigation into eight matches -- four at the Malta Cup in 2008, two at the UK Championship 2008, and one each at the China Open in 2009 and the World Championship the same year.
He was suspended last October and an independent hearing was arranged by Sport Resolutions UK.
Adam Lewis QC, WPBSA said in a statement: "Stephen Lee is found guilty of "agreeing an arrangement...[and of]..Accepting or receiving or offering to receive...Payment or... Other... benefit... In connection with influencing the outcome or conduct of "each of the seven matches in breach of Rule 2.9."
"Lee was in contact with three different groups of people all of whom placed bets on the outcomes of his matches or on the outcomes of frames within his matches or on the exact score of his matches. The total amount bet on these matches was in excess of ?111,000 (USD 176,500, 132,300 euros) leading to winnings of over ?97,000 for the persons placing the bets. It is not clear how much Lee benefited from their activity or of his motivation to get involved in match fixing."
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said the governing body has a zero tolerance approach to match fixing.
"This particular case was extremely difficult and complicated to bring to a hearing. This ruling is a stark warning to competitors in any sport who could become vulnerable in the future. Stephen Lee was the number 5 player in the world and had the opportunity to be part of snooker`s great success story. His future participation in the sport is now in real doubt as he will face a significant sanction," Ferguson said.