October 10, 2013

Lee Protests His Innocence

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:15 am
Someone is telling porkies

Someone is telling porkies

Stephen Lee took to the airwaves last night to tell Andy Goldstein that he was completely innocent of the charges that have landed him with a 12 year ban from snooker, saying World Snooker has played ‘dirty tricks’ on him and claiming that he was not given a fair hearing.

It is a predictable response from him, if there is one thing you can say about him it is that he has been totally consistent since the beginning in proclaiming his innocence, he’s maintained a dignified silence while his 11 month suspension was going on and has not been tempted to elaborate on his claims to be a scapegoat, implying by definition that he has took the hit for others in the sport.

In the interview with Talksport which can be listened to here Lee continually goes back to several key themes. Firstly, he says he has evidence of a legitimate money trail for all payments into his (wife’s) bank account, refuting the charge that these were funds accumulated through gambling. Secondly, he says that he was not given a chance to properly defend himself and that if the ‘facts’ were known, people would not be so quick to judge him. Thirdly, he names people who have lept to his defence, the two he decided to focus on being Jimmy White and Matthew Stevens, before mentioning ‘a few of the lads in Thailand’ which probably wasn’t his greatest idea ever.

Interestingly, early on in the interview Lee claims that he was not under any financial pressure during the key period. This is quite interesting as not only is this the only shred of pity which the tribunal offered him in their final judgement as a mitigating factor but it also flies in the face of a string of unpaid county court judgements against him totalling somewhere in the region of £70,000.

He also talks at length about the Premier League match with John Higgins which triggered his suspension, though disappointingly Andy does not present the betting figures of that match to him which I covered extensively on this blog here. Whilst the investigation into that match was dropped, largely I believe for convenience rather than any judgement of innocence on Lee’s part, it’s still clear from what has been said by some of the players, publicly by Mark King in particular, that they believe had he not been ‘at it again’ in the Premier League he may well have not been suspended in the first place and might still be playing, his past misdemeanours all but forgotten.

When Lee is presented with player quotes from King ‘I’ve no sympathy for him’, Judd Trump ‘Deserves a life ban’ and Ken Doherty ‘There is no way back for him’ he again reiterates that if they knew the facts of the case they would not be saying this. Even more bizarrely Lee claims that he has ‘never been approached to fix a match’, at this point a pig can be clearly heard flying across the studio.

Bazza: No sympathy.

Bazza: No sympathy.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn has little sympathy for Lee and has told the Daily Hate Mail today that:

‘He’s desperate because he’s finished and the fact that he’s got some muppet trying to sell his story just says it all. When he reached No 5 in the world I was so proud of him, I liked Stephen, he was a nice bloke. But now we have to hold him up as an example of someone who has thrown away a successful career because he took the wrong road. If he was still at that top-5 level now he’d be making about £500,000 a year. As it is, he’s lost everything’.

Good old Bazza getting a plug in too about prize money. Never misses a trick that fella.

So Lee maintains his innocence as he heads for what presumably will be his final throw of the dice. What will he do if that’s it? Does he start landing others in it? The temptation to do so will be there and doubtless there will be hacks who’ll happily dish the dirt, I dare say that there will possibly be a few twitchy players around if he decides to go down that path. But this of course would blow what is left of his own credibility to smithereens and make his vehement protestations of innocence laughable so he’d be a very brave or foolish man to do this.

I have tried to maintain balance in all my blogging about this issue, there are things I have been told that would break confidences so that’s not going to happen. But suffice to say that the description of Lee as a lovely man is one that is shared by most people who have met him. The only people who do not seem to share this opinion of him in my experience are people whose relationships with him have been on a business level rather than a personal one.

We’ll wait and see what happens on appeal, but the weight of evidence against him as detailed here and summarised brilliantly in this month’s Snooker Scene will take some chipping away at.

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