FORMER Sunderland striker Michael Chopra has been charged in connection with race-fixing by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
The 28-year-old, who now plays for Ipswich, and four others have been charged with offering bribes to Andrew Heffernan, a former British licensed jockey now riding in Australia.
Three other people have been charged with other breaches of the rules of racing, the BHA have announced.
Paul Scotney, the BHA’s integrity, compliance and licensing director, said: “The charges BHA has issued are the result of a long and complicated investigation. This process has taken significant time and resources.
“However, investigations such as these are very similar to fraud investigations and as such are complex and time consuming.
“Furthermore, we encountered difficulties in obtaining telephone records from certain individuals who refused to co-operate. This resulted in us having to make a number of applications to the High Court for orders against their mobile telephone service providers for disclosure of the relevant records.
“We hope that the announcement demonstrates our commitment to deterring and detecting wrong-doing and taking action against those who we believe to have breached the rules.
“However, racegoers and those betting on British Racing should be reassured that instances of this nature are extremely rare and that the overwhelming majority of races are free of suspicion.”
TWO other footballers have also been charged along with 28-year-old former Newcastle, Cardiff and Sunderland striker Chopra.
They are: Mark Wilson, 33, a former Manchester United and England Under-21 international who spent most of his career at Doncaster and has been recently released by Oxford; and midfielder James Coppinger, 31, also formerly at Doncaster but now on loan at Nottingham Forest.
All face bans from involvement with racing for several years if the charges are found proven.
None of the others charged are public figures although one, Paul Garner, was working as a stable lad at Alan McCabe’s yard when the offences were alleged to have been committed.
The charges relate to a period between November 2010 and March 2011.
In November of 2011, Chopra revealed he had gambled away up to £2million and had checked into the Sporting Chance Clinic to address his addiction.
Chopra said then: “Your first bet’s your worst bet. As the years have come along and I’ve earned more money I’ve started to gamble more.
“I was gambling up to £20,000 a day at times. As soon as I’d step over the white line I would focus on football - but as soon as I got to the dressing room I would check my phone to see if I’d won.
“In my first season at Cardiff I had a gambling debt from when I was at Newcastle. I had to leave Cardiff and sign for another team to pay that debt off. I have probably lost between £1.5m and £2m on gambling.”
All three footballers are charged by the BHA with conspiring to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice by placing bets on a horse ridden by Heffernan.
Chopra and Wilson are further charged with paying a bribe to the jockey.
It is understood the police have been kept informed of the BHA’s investigation but no criminal charges have been announced. Heffernan faces five charges, including of preventing his horse from winning a race.
All three footballers are charged over the events at three races, using information provided by Heffernan that his horse would lose. The maximum ban is 10 years and the entry point is a three-year ban.
The horses and races involved were Wanchai Whisperer in the 3.25pm at Lingfield on January 28, 2011, Gallantry in the 7.20pm at Kempton on February 2, 2011 and Silver Guest in the 1.55pm at Lingfield on February 9, 2011.