TROWBRIDGE snooker star Stephen Lee has been suspended by the sport's world governing body, the WPBSA, pending the results of a new investigation into suspicious betting patterns.
World number seven Lee, who was last week informed he would not face criminal charges over match-fixing allegations dating back to 2010, lost a Premier League match 4-2 against John Higgins last night.
A WPBSA statement read: "The WPBSA have concluded that it would not be appropriate for Stephen Lee to continue to compete on the World Snooker Tour whilst these investigations are undertaken.
"Therefore WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has taken the decision to suspend Stephen from competition whilst this inquiry is ongoing."
Lee, one of the form players in the world in the last year, told the Wiltshire Times last week how he was determined to press ahead with his revitalised career after learning that no charges were being brought after the police investigation into the 2010 allegations.
The WPBSA's full statement read: "On 2 October 2012 the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there will be no criminal proceedings in the match fixing allegations against Stephen Lee made in 2010. Following this decision by the CPS, the WPBSA started its own investigation into these allegations.
"On 5 October 2012 the WPBSA met with the Gambling Commission in order to review material collected by the Gambling Commission which may prove relevant to the WPBSA investigation.
"The WPBSA is now in the process of conducting a thorough enquiry into the circumstances and this will be led by Nigel Mawer, the Chairman of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.
"On 12 October 2012, the WPBSA was informed of suspicious betting patterns relating to a game between Stephen Lee and John Higgins played on 11 October 2012. This suspicious activity has also been referred to Nigel Mawer, the Chairman of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.
"The WPBSA have carefully considered both the initial information from the Gambling Commission which was reviewed on 5th October 2012 and the new information regarding suspicious betting patterns in relation to the match between Stephen Lee and John Higgins from 11 October 2012.
"The WPBSA have concluded that it would not be appropriate for Stephen Lee to continue to compete on the World Snooker Tour whilst these investigations are undertaken and therefore WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson has taken the decision to suspend Stephen from competition whilst this enquiry is ongoing.
"Subject to his right to appeal, this suspension will remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings."
The timing of the WPBSA's announcement is not ideal for Lee, who is celebrating his 38th birthday today.
Since turning professional in 1992 he has won five ranking tournament titles, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the World Championships in 2003.
Lee was arrested by West Midlands police in 2010 in relation to an investigation by the Gambling Commission over suspicious betting patterns, which has now been dropped.
He returned to form in 2011, climbing back into the world's top 16, and reached the final of the World Open in March 2012, when he lost to Mark Allen. Two weeks later he beat Neil Robertson 4-0 to win the Betfair PTC Grand Finals - his first title in six years.
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