MLS player Alves suspended as part of Brazil gambling probe
Colorado Rapids' Brazilian winger Max Alves has been suspended and placed on paid administrative leave while he faces an investigation into unlawful sports gambling, part of a wider probe that has rocked Brazilian football.
So far, eight first-division players in Brazil have been suspended by their clubs Tuesday and Wednesday over accusations of rigging games last year.
Alves was named in numerous reports of the Brazil investigations but his MLS club did not mention him by name in their statement.
"We are aware of the reports regarding a Colorado Rapids player in connection with unlawful sports gambling. We take matters of this nature seriously and seek at all times to protect the integrity of the game," the club said in a statement.
"The player has been removed from all team activities while MLS conducts an investigation into the matter."
MLS said it was "aware of reports regarding alleged involvement by a current and former player in connection with unlawful sports gambling" and said an investigation would begin promptly.
Authorities say they have uncovered a match-rigging ring involved in online gambling that paid footballers $10,000 to $20,000 to intentionally take yellow cards, be expelled, provoke penalty kicks, force a set number of corner kicks or guarantee certain scores.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino ordered federal police Wednesday to open an investigation into the allegations, which he said could have "repercussions" beyond Brazil.
Authorities in the state of Goias had already launched an investigation in November after second-division club Vila Nova claimed three games in its league's 2022 final season match week had been fixed.
That was just the "tip of the iceberg," prosecutors said last month, announcing their probe had uncovered a match-rigging ring whose tentacles extended into various state tournaments, Brazil's top-flight league and possibly beyond.
The eight suspended players came from six clubs: Eduardo Bauermann of Santos; Pedrinho and Ecuador's Bryan Garcia of Athletico Paranaense; Vitor Mendes of Fluminense; Nino Paraiba of America Mineiro; Richard of Cruzeiro; and Alef Manga and Uruguay's Jesus Trindade of Coritiba.
The players, some of whom were with other clubs at the time, were suspended for various periods, ranging from one match to indefinitely.
Another player named in media reports on the case, Argentina's Kevin Lomonaco of Red Bull Bragantino, has not been allowed to practice with the team since it was learned he was under investigation in mid-April, a club source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Many of the footballers -- including MLS player Alves -- appear in instant messages between them and the betting syndicate that were uncovered by investigators and published by Brazilian media Wednesday.
"I'm in favor of preventive suspensions based on concrete evidence, including expulsions from the sport in cases where there is definitive proof," the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Ednaldo Rodrigues, said in a statement.
Authorities have accused 16 people of involvement so far, including players and suspected ring members, and allege at least 13 matches were tampered with, including eight first-division fixtures last year.
If convicted, they would face up to six years in prison.