Three footballers have been banned from horse racing for their part in an “elaborate network of corruption” following a betting fraud investigation.
Ipswich Town’s Michael Chopra and Doncaster Rovers midfielder James Coppinger have been disqualified for ten and three years respectively after being found in breach of the Rules of Racing.
Former England Under-21 international and ex-Manchester United player Mark Wilson was also banned for ten years.
The action followed an investigation by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) into claims that jockey Andrew Heffernan had been paid to fix races between November 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011.
He was accused of giving betting exchange account holders information relating to the prospects of his horses and of intentionally failing to ensure they were run on their merits. The charges related to Heffernan’s riding of three horses - Wanchai Whisper, Gallantry and Silver Guest.
A BHA disciplinary panel found all charges against Heffernan proved and banned him for 15 years.
Chopra, 29, Coppinger, 32, and WIlson, 33, were found to have committed corrupt and fraudulent practices. Chopra was also found to have offered a bribe.
The disqualifications mean the men cannot attend licensed racing premises such as racecourses or stables, or have contact with licensed individuals.
Adam Brickell, BHA director of integrity, legal and risk, said in a statement: “The findings of the disciplinary panel confirm that an elaborate network of corruption has been identified and successfully prosecuted by the BHA.
“Investigations of this scale are extremely complex, especially when we are faced with a lack of cooperation, evasion, and untruthful accounts from many of those being investigated.
“It is as a result of significant hard work that a successful conclusion has been achieved, and further evidence the BHA is prepared to properly investigate cases involving unlicensed as well as licensed individuals.
“While we remain confident the overwhelming majority of races which take place in Britain are free of any suspicion, this case highlights that we can never be complacent in our efforts to maintain the integrity of British racing and to educate those involved with the sport, including the betting public, about the misuse of information.”
Five other individuals – Paul Garner, Yogesh Joshee, Douglas Shelley, Kelly Inglis and Pravin Shingardia – were also found to have breached the rules.
Garner, Joshee, Shelley and Wilson were charged with offering bribes to Heffernan.
Inglis was also charged with conspiring with Heffernan to offer to receive bribes from Chopra, Garner, Joshee, Shelley and Wilson.
Garner was also charged with placing lay bets on horses at a time when he was entered as a stable employee.
He was disqualified for 12 and a half years, while Shelley was excluded for eight years.
Shingadia, who was found to have conspired with others to commit a corrupt and fraudulent practice, was banned for three years.
Joshee and Inglis were disqualified for five and four years respectively.
Speaking earlier in the month, Chopra said he could not afford to pay the £50,000 legal fees to defend himself during the inquiry.
He also said he would welcome any BHA-imposed sanctions as he attempts to cure a gambling addiction. “It is well publicised that I have a gambling addiction problem and I see any such sanctions as being a useful mechanism in helping me to address these problems. As of this year, I’ve voluntarily excluded myself from all betting institutions from where I live in Ipswich in order to help me fight this illness.”
Ipswich said their striker would not be making any further comment.