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Foreign Affairs - Updated News/Views Regarding Odd European Sporting Doings...By Nelson Lardner

The domestic Tim Donaghy and Toledo football-program fronts have been sedate of late.

No additional officiating personalities with real or perceived manipulative bents have joined Donaghy in the Domestic Big Three sports spotlight, stateside, and the questions about untoward doings surrounding Rocket foots have receded from the constant view.

All this doesn't mean that all is tea and crumpets among those of us who'd prefer that all of our favorite games were contested in a straightforward manner (all the easier to handicap that way, m'dear . . . ).

The largest simmering kettle of fish involves the international professional-tennis scene, with the most recent revelation coming when it became known that the Association of Tennis Professionals is busily eyeballing a detailed listing of matches which aroused some measure of skepticism - with relevant footnotes included.

And we're not talking about a single sheet of paper. Some 150 matches made the list, including some with wholly legitimate associated reasons (illness), to "giving up" (tanking, we calls it) in order to satisfy the logistics and/or importance attached to the next stop on the endless carousel.

Literal evidence of fire has yet to be made public, if indeed any has been uncovered. But there has been a good deal of smoke wafting about, most recently, especially since Nikolay Davydenko's loss in a secondary tournament in Poland in early August . . . due to a foot injury, by all accounts and evidence. But it was also a foot injury that a zillion people got wind of in advance of that match, given the enormous, uncharacteristic volume of betting that Betfair and other exchanges absorbed on the far-lower-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello - the eventual match winner, following Davydenko's withdrawl during the third set.

Thus, the concern . . . exacerbated by 18th-ranked Andy Murray's reflexive verbal parry after finding himself on the outside looking in after his second-round upset loss in the Kremlin Cup October 11. " . . . everyone knows it goes on," Murray said, mincing no words. "I've just spoken to quite a lot of the players about that and there's obviously something that needs to be addressed."

Davydenko got wind of this, and (protesting a tad too much, methinks) countered with: "If Murray says that he knows, that means that he gambles himself," (Ed. note: Not necessarily, pally, but do go on . . .).

"Because people who start talking out loud have their fears disappear. And they know that if they speak out loud it means that they are free, they have not done it." (Ed. note: Maybe in Russia, my friend, but not everywhere).

Murray subsequently eased back from the level of assertiveness inherent in his initial comments. Make no mistake -- paranoia strikes deep, and into numerous tennis minds it will creep.

With good reason, brother. The money's there.

Just last month, Belgian player Gilles Elseneer alleged he was offered (and declined) a package in the low-six-figure-U. S.-dollar range to tank a first-rounder against Italy's Potito Starace in Wimbledon's 2005 clambake.

So on the surface, the Maginot Line may be holding, but as William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe noted, "There is always a way. There will never be a foolproof system. Whatever rule you have in place, they'll find a way around it."

Meanwhile, the notorious, long-running case of jockey Kieren Fallon and five other defendants continue to deal with charges brought in a London court involving 27 horses ticketed to lose between December, 2002, and September, 2004.

To emphasize just how inexact a science this can be, Fallon handled 17 of the equine competitors under discussion - and won on five of them!

The pivotal money figure in this legal action has been identified as one Miles Rodgers, who with the aid of friends, acqaintences and his girlfriend, enjoyed control of 13 Betfair accounts - including his own. Based on that supposition, Rodgers allegedly moved more than two MILLION British pounds on the exchanges - AGAINST the mounts in question.

For statsiders and/or those not involved in racing, this may not seem a big deal. Be assured, it's an enormous story throughout Europe. On a skills level, Fallon is one of the sainted riding talents in international thoroughbred history, and is fresh off a sensational win aboard John Magnier and Michael Tabor's Dylan Thomas in France's Gr. I Prix de l'Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp October 7. Dylan Thomas is the overwhelming favorite in the $3,000,000 Breeders' Cup Turf, to be held at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, this coming Saturday.

This trial likely has months to go. The fact that Fallon actually prevailed on five of the horses in question muddies the waters, and may work in his favor. But extensive text-message evidence - practically impossible to scrub away, once inputted -- already introduced at trial is damning, if read in a certain light.

Not a pretty backdrop for the pending gala Breeders' Cup events, but part of the landscape, as we strive to look day-to-day on the brighter sides of the never-ending handicapping marathon . . .

Nelson Lardner

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