STEPHEN Lee has been banned from playing any World Snooker event for 12 years after being found guilty of match-fixing.
The ban, which is the biggest punishment handed out in the history of the sport, effectively ends Lee’s snooker career given he will be aged 50 when the suspension expires.
The 38-year-old was found guilty of seven charges of match-fixing after an independent tribunal was held in Bristol earlier this month. The matches took place in four different tournaments – the Malta Cup, UK Championship, China Open and World Championship – between 2008 and 2009.
Lee, who was also ordered to pay £40,000 in legal costs, has a right to appeal the ban handed out and is understood he intends to do so.
Should Lee’s appeal prove unsuccessful, the ban is likely to end the career of a player who was once ranked in the top five of the world rankings and the winner of five ranking titles.
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the WPBSA, said: “We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues.
“However this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption.
“It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with. We work closely with partners globally and the message we are sending is that if you get involved in match fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport.”
But since the punishment was announced on what was one of snooker’s darkest days, Lee spoke of his devastation and insisted he was innocent of the match-fixing charges.
Outside his home, Lee told the BBC, he would make an official statement on Friday (September 27) and reveal his side of events to a national newspaper.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve been a very angry man for 11 months. We’ll just wait and see what happens. I’ll be making an official statement on Friday morning. Snooker is all I know, it’s a game that I love.
“I had no lawyer to represent me. I believe if I had a lawyer in there, there would have been a different outcome completely. A dirty picture has been painted.
“It’s just absolutely outrageous. I am absolutely devastated at what’s happened here.
“I’m going to be with a QC on Friday morning and we are going to look at the whole picture and start making some big holes. They’ve got no facts.
“My career’s over. My dad could beat me if I’m 50.”