Stephen Lee: Banned snooker player to miss Crucible

Stephen Lee

Suspended snooker player Stephen Lee will miss the 2013 World Championship because a match-fixing investigation will not be completed beforehand.

He has not played competitively since being suspended in October 2012 as part of an inquiry into betting patterns around a game against John Higgins.

Lee, 38, faces a formal independent hearing arranged by Sport Resolutions UK over separate allegations.

But the hearing will not happen before the draw is made, the BBC has learned.

Lee, who strongly denies the claims, had formally applied to play in the tournament, which starts next month.

No date has yet been set for the corruption hearing, and, while it may take place before the end of April, it will not be resolved before the World Championship qualifying draw on Easter Monday, 1 April.

The televised stages of the competition begin on Saturday 20 April, when reigning champion Ronnie O'Sullivan will return from a break as top seed and play in the first match.

Lee ran into a rich vein of form at the end of last season which saw him return to the world's top eight after winning the 2012 PTC Grand Finals in Galway, his first ranking title in six years.

If found guilty of breaching snooker's rules in any of the eight matches under investigation, he could face a lengthy ban.

Both parties are keen for a speedy resolution to the case, although legal wrangling has meant a date has yet to be finalised.

"Stephen has been very positive considering everything that's gone on, and obviously he insists he's done nothing wrong," said his manager Adam Quigley last month.

"He's still practising and still doing the odd exhibition."

Lee is accused of rule breaches in a match at the 2009 World Championship.

The father-of-four faces further claims involving four games at the 2008 Malta Cup, two matches at the UK Championship that year and one match at the 2009 China Open.

He is accused of providing information that "is not publicly available" and deliberately influencing "the outcome or conduct of a game or frame".

The player, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was arrested in February 2010 by police investigating suspicious betting patterns, but denied any wrongdoing and was told in October 2012 that he would not face a criminal prosecution over the allegations.

Lee has been ranked as high as fifth in the world and began this season at number eight, but is now ranked 17th and would have needed to play a qualifying match if he was allowed to return.

He was suspended in October when the WPBSA opened a separate inquiry, which has not been concluded, into a Premier League match against Higgins.

Scottish four-time world champion Higgins is not being investigated.

World number 60 Joe Jogia was banned for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 costs in July after a large amount of small bets were placed on Matthew Selt to win their shoot-out match in January.

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