Disgraced Lee gets 12-year ban for snooker fixing
England snooker player Stephen Lee is seen taking part in the 2008 Masters Snooker Championship
Lee, 38, the former world number five, was found guilty by an independent tribunal last week of match-fixing charges relating to seven matches in 2008 and 2009 with the sanction imposed Wednesday.
"The suspension is to be calculated from 12 October 2012, when the interim suspension was imposed. Therefore Stephen Lee will not be able to participate in snooker before 12 October 2024," said a statement issued by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), the sport's global governing body.
Lee, however, insisted later Wednesday he intended to appeal against the ban, saying he'd done nothing wrong.
"I'm absolutely devastated," Lee told the BBC. "I've done nothing wrong. I'm totally innocent of this and I will be making a public statement later on, I've just seen my lawyer."
'Longest ban handed down'
The WPBSA had been seeking a life ban but disciplinary chief Nigel Mawer insisted a 12-year-punishment was effectively the same thing as he thought it unlikely Lee would return to top-level snooker.
"To my knowledge this is the longest ban ever handed down and there are £40,000 costs to pay too if he ever wants to come back," Mawer said.
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson added: "We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues.
"However this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption.
"It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with.
"The message we are sending is that if you get involved in match fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport."
In his judgement, tribunal chairman Adam Lewis, one of England's leading sports lawyers, noted life-bans were not part of the disciplinary rules at the time of Lee's offences but that he had the discretion to impose such a punishment.
However, Lewis said: "In all the circumstances, I do not regard a life-time ban as proportionate, or as necessary in order to deter.
"On the other hand, I do regard a ban of a lengthy period to be both necessary in order to deter and as proportionate in the circumstances of the case."
Lewis added he believed Lee had been taken advantage of when in a "weak position".
"These breaches occurred when Mr Lee was in a financially perilous state not entirely of his own making and was finding it difficult to obtain entry to enough tournaments.
"As a weak man in a vulnerable position he succumbed to temptation. I consider it unlikely that he was the prime mover or instigator of the activity. It seems to me likely that advantage was taken of him."
Lee's case is the biggest match-fixing scandal to hit snooker since Australia's Quinten Hann was suspended for eight years in 2006 after he was caught in a sting by undercover reporters where he agreed to lose a game at the China Open in return for money.
Last year, Joe Jogia was banned for two years after the WPBSA found him guilty of breaching betting rules.
The WPBSA said Lee was in contact with three different groups of people all of whom placed bets on the outcomes of his matches or on the outcomes of frames within his matches or on the exact score of his matches.
The total amount bet on these matches was in excess of £111,000 ($176,500, 132,300 euros) leading to winnings of over £97,000 for the persons placing the bets.