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3 soccer players banned in British racing scandal

Steve Douglas, AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Three professional soccer players were among nine people banned from British horse racing Friday after an investigation into an elaborate race-fixing scandal.

The case centered on allegations that jockey Andrew Heffernan, who has recently been riding in Australia, fixed races in Britain between Nov. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011.

Heffernan was banned for 15 years after being found guilty of receiving bribes, giving inside information and preventing three horses — Wanchai Whisper, Gallantry and Silver Guest — from running their best.

Ipswich striker Michael Chopra and former Manchester United midfielder Mark Wilson were both disqualified for 10 years for offering bribes to Heffernan and placing bets based on information provided by the jockey that his horse would lose. Doncaster midfielder James Coppinger drew a three-year ban for the latter charge.

Five other unlicensed individuals — Paul Garner, Yogesh Joshee, Douglas Shelley, Kelly Inglis and Pravin Shingardia — were found in violation of racing rules after a four-day hearing.

"The findings of the disciplinary panel confirm that an elaborate network of corruption has been identified and successfully prosecuted," said Adam Brickell, the director of integrity, legal and risk of the British Horseracing Authority. "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."

Chopra, who used to play for Newcastle and Cardiff, is in line to play for Ipswich in a second-tier League Championship match Saturday. He did not give evidence in the hearing, which took place from Jan. 14-17, because he couldn't afford to pay the legal fees. He has acknowledged a gambling addiction.