But there's something that worries me about the way this story is being discussed in the blogosphere, driven by how it's been addressed by those members of the media with an interest in tamping down concern that the problem is rampant (again, that remains to be seen). The first step to solving a problem is to identify it. The next step is to validate and/or admit that it is in fact a problem. But to hear the way it's been discussed in the blogosphere, I'm not certain there is a clear understanding of what the problem is, as identified by the BuzzFeed report, or that we are collectively prepared to confirm that it is indeed a problem to be addressed.
The roundtable discussions on ESPN and the Tennis Channel when the BBC report was imminent, but after the BuzzFeed report had already been published, centered around the desperate reassurances (as calmly delivered as they were notwithstanding) that this is a problem restricted to the minor leagues of tennis and that the report centered around information originally reported way back in 2007. That was clearly the message of Chris Fowler (for whom I have very little respect) and Cliff Drysdale (for whom I have enormous respect, although he has an obvious dog in this fight). Brad Gilbert almost seemed to tacitly excuse the problem by distracting the discussion over to the (in)ability of these players to make ends meet on the outskirts of the known tennis galaxy. It was only the pointed criticism of Patrick McEnroe that resonated with me, and forms the basis for my concern that this problem isn't actually going to be adequately addressed.
McEnroe confronted Chris Kermode's reassurances to the effect that everyone should take a deep breath, because we're handling this, indicating that this was woefully insufficient. The lack of transparency in who has been banned and why, when investigations have begun, what precipitated them, and ultimately how they're handling the entire question of match-fixing, is not only the point of the BuzzFeed report, but is also the reason why the furor over it maintains access to oxygen. Would it were not for the ample fuel of the opaque, the tepid responses of the blind apologists might have been entirely unnecessary, let alone sufficient.
That's the most salient point of the report - not the details of how they've determined which players frequently play matches have seen strange better patterns, nor the details of the Nikolay Davydenko case (with an exception for one detail, which I will explain later). The real issue is that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), charged with dealing with this, is woefully understaffed, both in manpower (a unit of two) and brain power (no professional betting analysts). It's no wonder that their operations and progress are so secretive: who who want the world to know how inept you are at dealing with something that has the potential to be so pernicious?
I would also argue that the details and methodology of betting analysis have not sufficiently distinguished between evidence of match fixing or evidence of someone using inside information to make a profit. The former is very clearly illegal and would spell the death of professional tennis, but the latter is not strictly illegal, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. If betting on tennis is to be allowed, does it not behoove the bettors, particularly those doing it for more than just a laugh, to do their homework and gather as much information about the players that they can? The collapsed allegations against Davydenko is a case study in just this phenomenon.
Many with renewed interest in the events of that era are operating under the misapprehension that the "evidence" against Davydenko was obvious, and that the ATP let a guilty man go free because he stonewalled their investigation. Setting aside the absurdity of both of those things being simultaneously true (which makes no sense) the facts are as follows: