Chinese snooker players Liang Wenbo and Li Hang have been given lifetime bans from the sport, and eight other players were given suspensions due to match-fixing and gambling, said a statement issued by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association on Tuesday.
The independent WPBSA disciplinary commission delivered the decision on the 10 players, the statement said.
Liang, 36, who has been under suspension from snooker events since last October, was found guilty of manipulating or participating in the manipulation of five snooker matches, and attempting to persuade or enable other players to fix nine matches. He also bet on snooker matches, failed to cooperate with the WPBSA investigation and requested other players under investigation to delete messages on their phones.
Li, 32, was also charged with match-fixing and inciting or facilitating other players to manipulate match outcomes.
The eight other Chinese players were given suspensions ranging from five years and four months to one year and eight months. Players can appeal the decision until June 20, it said.
Among them, 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao has been given a five-year ban until 11 December 2027.Zhao Xintong, with two ranking event titles to his name including the renowned UK Championship in 2021, received a suspension of one year and eight months, set to expire on Sept 1, 2024. Zhao and Yan ranked in the world's top 16 and China's top 2 when they were provisionally suspended in December.
Dubbed the Triple Crown, the Masters, the UK Championship and the World Championship are the most prestigious tournaments in snooker.
"This has been a very complex case. It has been heartbreaking to see some young talented players fall foul of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players," said WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson. "This behavior has been recognized as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognized snooker in any way."
The Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association had suspended all domestic competitions for the involved 10 players since December.
In the early morning of Wednesday, the CBSA said in a statement that it will hand down severe punishment to the involved players, give warnings and education to the whole industry and take measures to fight gambling and match-fixing.
The CBSA said it has zero tolerance toward gambling, match-fixing and other behaviors that violate sports ethics.
The CBSA will further strengthen the management of its professional players in the United Kingdom and work more closely with international organizations to prevent the reappearance of similar incidents.
Meanwhile, the CBSA will take action in the domestic industry and establish supervision and reporting mechanisms to improve conduct and discipline, it said.
China has risen to become a major player in the world of snooker, with around 10 players in the world's top 50 in recent years.
Early Wednesday morning, Zhao Xintong, 26, issued an apology on social media.
"I have been thoroughly regretting my ignorance and silliness since being suspended a few months ago. I feel ashamed as I disappointed everybody by making a mistake. I just want to say sorry to everyone."
Zhao insisted that he had never fixed any match or even contemplated match-fixing, but he failed to refuse a friend's request to assist with betting. "I didn't make any profit from it, but I paid a heavy price for my foolishness."