Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: the arms of a Swissie
It just won't go away; Mark Miles denies wrongdoing
From the New York Times
Russian Tennis Stars Asked About Man in Skating Scandal
By SELENA ROBERTS
CINCINNATI, Aug. 5 ? Initially, men's tennis officials noted last week's arrest of a man believed to be linked to Russian organized crime as distant observers. Then a 1999 photo surfaced that showed Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov cozying up to the man known as the Little Taiwanese in the underworld.
Soon, officials learned that Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who was accused in a criminal complaint of trying to rig the outcome of pairs figure skating and ice dancing at the Salt Lake Winter Games, had links to their sport that went beyond the snapshot that quickly vanished from the Web site of Andrei Medvedev, a retired Ukrainian tennis star.
Tokhtakhounov also has ties to the Russian Tennis Federation and once received a Mercedes-Benz as a gift from Medvedev. Concerned for the integrity of tennis, officials contacted authorities last week for information about the investigation. Today they approached Safin and Kafelnikov at the Tennis Masters Series event here to inquire about their relationships with Tokhtakhounov.
"I don't have any reason to believe ? at least for Marat and Yevgeny, who we have spoken to briefly here ? that they have developed a particularly close relationship with him," said Mark Miles, the chief executive of the men's tour.
Miles said that neither the information the tour received from authorities, nor the discussions tennis officials have had with both players, lead them to believe their players have any link to organized crime, but that they would continue to monitor developments in the investigation.
"So far, everything we've learned is reassuring," Miles said. "I believe that the authorities appreciate the interests of this sport, and I think they'd want to give us some heads-up if there was a reason for us to be concerned."
The tour's rule book has strict guidelines governing player behavior. Players are forbidden from giving, soliciting or accepting anything of value that could manipulate the outcome of an event. There is also a conduct code that is in a grayer area, concerning any action by a player that would be contrary to the integrity of the game. Also, in the ethics section, there is a rule that prohibits players, coaches or immediate family from making wagers on tennis.
Tokhtakhounov reportedly has legal business interests in casinos across Russia.
"Obviously, an acquaintance with someone ? who may or may not be desirable ? is not in violation of the rules," Miles said. "Behavior that affects the integrity of the game does. I suppose it's not a black-and-white line, but I haven't seen anything in this case which indicates that line has been crossed."
Safin, a rising star from Russia, and Kafelnikov, its aging legend, have acknowledged knowing Tokhtakhounov, but neither has publicly elaborated on the details. Today Kafelnikov did offer his first defense of the man accused of fixing the figure skating results. Like many other Russian athletes who think of Tokhtakhounov as a sports philanthropist, Kafelnikov finds the timing of the arrest very curious.
"All I'm saying is, if he had anything to do with it, why this kind of stuff wouldn't come up in the first place, right after the event?" Kafelnikov said after losing his first-round match. "It's like Russians are seen as terrible, but it's not that way at all. Russia is a proud country, with a great history."
The Tennis Refuge
You will be missed, Michel Kratochvil!