SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean prosecutors have indicted a leading baseball player for allegedly manipulating games for gambling purposes in what could be another blow to the reputation of the country's professional sports leagues.
Prosecutors in Changwon city on Thursday said they formally charged pitcher Lee Tae Yang, a starter for NC Dinos in the Korea Baseball Organization, over allegations that he deliberately allowed first-inning walks and runs in two games last season after receiving 20 million won ($17,500) from a gambling broker, who has been arrested.
Another player linked to the case is Moon Woo-ram, an outfielder currently with South Korea's military baseball team in the KBO's second-tier competition, who is suspected of receiving 10 million won ($8,770) in cash and gifts from the broker for connecting him with Lee, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Lee and the broker colluded over four of Lee's starts between May and September last year, and the pitcher successfully delivered in two of the games. Lee had promised to give up at least a run in the first inning in a May 29 start against the KIA Tigers, when he ended up allowing five runs over four innings in a loss, and at least a walk in the first inning in an Aug. 6 start against the Lotte Giants, when he gave up two runs while lasting only three innings, prosecutors said.
The Changwon-based Dinos issued an apology over the suspicions surrounding Lee, who has been left off the team's active roster since June 28 for what the team had described as an elbow injury, and said it was taking steps to terminate the contract.
Lee, 23, enjoyed a breakout season for the Dinos in 2015, going 10-5 as a starter to help the team reach the playoffs. He was also part of the South Korean team that won the World Baseball Softball Confederation's inaugural Premier 12 tournament held in Taiwan and Japan in November. This season, Lee was 2-2 with a 4.21 ERA before the team shelved him.
Moon, 24, remains under contract with the Seoul-based Nexen Heroes, and has been serving out his compulsory military service with the Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps., whose baseball team competes in the KBO's secondary Futures League.
If prosecutors prove the charges against the players in court, both Lee and Moon may receive lifetime bans from the KBO, which would also prevent them from playing professionally in the United States, Japan and Taiwan based on agreements between the leagues, the KBO said.
South Korea's major professional sports leagues, including baseball, soccer and basketball, have been rocked by match-fixing scandals in recent years that have led to jail sentences and lifetime bans of several players and coaches.
The KBO has permanently banned two pitchers from the Seoul-based LG Twins who were convicted in 2012 for taking bribes from gambling brokers in exchange for deliberately walking batters.