Roger Federer recently won the Swiss Indoor title for the fourth time in five years. Federer ousted last year's champion Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the final in front of his fans in his native Switzerland.
Federer is now 4-4 in finals this year as he seeks to reclaim No. 1 ranking in the world from his archrival, Rafael Nadal.
Now Federer is in France trying to capture another Masters Series title.
While the 29-year-old Federer continues his winning ways on the court, there is a story surrounding the Swiss star off the court that has totally flown under the radar.
According to a suit filed by Agate Printing in Los Angeles, Federer is linked to gambling.
It has been alleged that IMG president Teddy Forstmann placed a $40,000 dollar bet on Federer to win prior to the 2007 French Open Final against Rafael Nadal.
Agate asserts that in addition to betting on Federer, Forstmann has placed nearly 600 bets on various sports throughout their 15-year friendship. The suit filed by Agate Printing, owned by Jim Agate, suggests he was the middle-man who placed the bets on behalf of Fortsmann.
How can arguably the greatest player of all time be potentially linked to gambling and the tennis world stay relatively silent?
Federer is taking the offensive. According to a recent article published by the AP, Federer has spoken with Forstmann to get clarity. Federer stated, “I reached out to him and told him I want to know everything about it, how this came about,” Federer told the newspaper. “And he’s been, you know, nice enough obviously to tell me from his side and has been very open in the press already. So that’s OK.”
In 2007 Nikolay Davydenko was linked to gambling and it was headline news in the tennis world. Davydenko was consistently asked questions from the media about the situation. He was investigated to the max. It was later revealed Davydenko did nothing wrong.
Davydenko suggested while the investigation was at its peak that it bothered him on and off the court. He stated, "If you read something in the press, it's bad news. People ask me: 'true or not?' It can bother you."
If the media was so persistent on getting to the bottom of allegations around Davydenko, why are they looking away from allegations surrounding Forstmann and Federer?
I came across the Forstmann situation by way of FanHouse columnist Greg Couch. He wrote a piece last month titled, “IMG Admits to Betting, Tennis Can’t Afford to Look Away.”
Couch confirmed from email correspondence received from an IMG Vice President that Forstmann did bet on tennis. The email stated, "And you wrote that (Forstmann) bet against Roger Federer." The VP said, "That isn't true. He bet on Federer to beat Rafael Nadal (in the 2007 French Open final). He lost $40,000 on that match.''
Last month Forstmann conducted an interview with The Daily Beast's Charlie Gasparino. In the interview Forstmann stated the following: "I might have called Roger before the match in 2007. But Roger is a buddy of mine and all I would be doing is wishing him luck. How is that insider information? Now somehow or another, I'm fixing the match."
Federer has denied any wrong-doing whatsoever. He recently said, "It’s disappointing that someone’s throwing my name around. I would never do such a thing."
He added, "My fans know that, the people who know me ... I have nothing to hide. I’m sorry for those who think there is something to the story. But there’s nothing."
Perhaps the only way to ascertain if it was “nothing” is to investigate further, and that’s what I have begun to do.
I contacted the Tennis Integrity Unit to inquire about the potential consequences an owner of a tournament would face if he bet on tennis. Spokesperson of the unit Mark Harrison stated Forstmann has been contacted recently. He expressed that he understood the rules and would not partake in anymore betting. “The Tennis Integrity Unit has contacted Mr. Forstmann about this matter and made it clear that since January 2009 he has been covered by the provisions of the game’s anti-corruption code.” He continued, “Mr. Forstmann has confirmed that he understands and accepts this and advised that he has not gambled on tennis since the Uniform Tennis Anti-Corruption Programme came into effect from January 2009.”
While it appears Forstmann may be in the clear with the Tennis Integrity Unit, he can be in hot water if the tennis governing bodies decide to investigate. Harrison continued, "Prior to January 2009 issues relating to gambling came under the jurisdiction of the individual tennis governing bodies."
I then contacted Forstmann's lawyer, Mike Sitrick. I asked Sitrick about his bet of $40,000 on Federer to win the 2007 French Open, citing the Gasparino interview. He replied, "I will re-read the Gasparino piece and see what you are referring to."
So much for clarity.
In any event, Forstmann has already admitted to gambling to Gasparino. So why is the story flying so far under the radar?
IMG is a sports corporate giant. It owns several tennis tournaments and is part owner of the Tennis Channel. In addition to Federer, the likes of Tiger Woods, Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal are among other athletes who are tied Forstmann and IMG.
Forstmann has relationships with some of the best athletes and agents in the world. He has access to information most are not privy to. Furthermore, he is a billionaire. The combination of access to information and wealth can get a lot of things accomplished or covered up if need be.
Don’t you see how this can be a big deal?
Federer may very well be innocent here. He could be the victim of something he knew nothing about directly. Nevertheless, he may have to field questions not about regaining his No. 1 ranking, how his kids are doing or his tennis game: He may be blasted with questions about a potential gambling scandal of epic proportions.
Meanwhile Agate is being portrayed by IMG as a man down on his luck, in need of money. Forstmann’s camp suggests Agate is telling boldfaced lies about one of the wealthiest men in sports.
I obtained information from attorney Sitrick. He characterized Agate as someone looking to hit the “lottery” by presumably extorting his client.
Typically, in legal cases such as these, one seeks to gain a competitive advantage over the other by assassinating the other's character. Perhaps Agate may be down on his luck. Perhaps he has told a lie or two in his day.
But even a liar sometimes tells the truth.
This current fiasco reminds me of when Jose Canseco blew the whistle on Major League Baseball with his book Juiced. Canseco told the sports world there was a major problem with steroids in baseball.
He provided intricate details about who was using them and chronicled his own steroid use as well. Canseco also claimed that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig knew about it but turned a blind eye to the ordeal.
Canseco was cast as an angry, financially strapped ex-player who was mad at the world. He was accused of lying and stirring up trouble to promote his book.
It was true that Canseco was having financial difficulty and came off as being mad at the world.
But once the dust settled, Canseco was telling the truth.
Could Agate be telling the truth as well?
These are some serious allegations.
Forstmann is one of the most powerful men in sports. His access to agents, athletes and money may have been used to potentially harm tennis and the sports world in general.
Some may think this situation isn’t about Federer: This is about one of the most powerful men in sports, Forstmann, who is the top dog of a massive company engaging in activities that could harm tennis and the sports world in general.
The only way to decipher between fact and fiction is to investigate all those parties who are involved, starting with Fortsmann.