Shanghai:Alessio di Mauro was suspended for nine months on Saturday for betting on tennis matches, becoming the first player to be sanctioned under the ATP's new anti-corruption rules.
The 124th-ranked Italian was also fined USD 60,000 (Euro 41,000) after being found guilty of making 120 bets with an online bookmaker from November 2, 2006 to June 12 this year.
Di Mauro, who faced a maximum penalty of three years, is banned from November 12 to August 12, 2008.
The investigation found that none of the bets were on his matches or that any results were affected.
"This does underline our policy of players and staff wagering on tennis," ATP president Etienne de Villiers said.
"If we do not have a sport with integrity, we do not have a sport. We recognized in 2003 the threat of online betting. We take this really seriously."
In 2003, the ATP signed an agreement with online betting company Betfair to share information on suspicious matches.
De Villiers said that a new rule requiring players to report any attempt to fix a match within 48 hours of being contacted will be passed at an ATP board meeting on November 15.
The head of the ATP's new anti-corruption body will be named from the three remaining candidates at the same board meeting.
"Do I believe we have a corruption problem? No, I don't," De Villiers said. "We will do anything we can to deal with this threat."
Calls to di Mauro's cell phone went unanswered today. But the Italian tennis federation criticized the penalty as too harsh.
Spokesman Giancarlo Baccini said he believes di Mauro is being used as a scapegoat.
"At first glance, it seems disproportionate considering other bans in the past, from doping cases, for example," Baccini told The Associated Press.
"They say he never committed sporting fraud, so the only thing he did was bet, which is prohibited and should definitely be punished," Baccini said.
"But there have been players banned only six months for doping, so nine months for di Mauro seems disproportionate," he added.
The Italian federation issued a separate statement noting that the ATP said di Mauro never tried to affect the result of a match, "Whereas doping, besides putting in danger the health of whoever does it, is equal in all effects to sporting fraud."
The 30-year-old Di Mauro has a 5-10 record this year and is 16-35 overall. He has earned USD 130,915 (euro89,264) in prize money.
Di Mauro's season highlight was reaching the final of a clay-court tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in February after which the Sicilian reached a career-high ranking of No. 68.
Di Mauro's coach, Fabio Rizzo, told Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week that Di Mauro was an avid online gambler but never bet on his own matches or cheated.
"He didn't know about the ban on players betting on their own sport and he also foolishly bet on tennis," Rizzo said.
"But not on his own matches, and not even on tournaments he played in. And we're talking about very small figures -- euro10-15 (USD 15-22)-- at a time that Alessio bet on an online site, like many colleagues."
He's always had a passion for betting on sports, mostly soccer, he added.