MLS places midfielder Felipe Hernandez on leave for suspected gambling violation

MLS places midfielder Felipe Hernandez on leave for gambling violation
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Major League Soccer (MLS) has placed Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Hernandez on administrative leave amid suspicions that he may have violated the league’s gambling policies for a second time, the club announced on Friday.

This comes less than three years after the Colombian was previously suspended for the end of the 2021 season after breaching the league’s gambling integrity rules and standards of conduct.

Hernandez was found at that time to have wagered on two MLS matches, which is strictly prohibited by the league. Neither of the games involved his team and the 2021 investigation concluded that there was no evidence that Hernandez had used insider knowledge to wager or affected the integrity of either game.

Then aged 23, Hernandez said at the time of his first suspension that he had informed the club of his gambling activities in July of that year. He told the league that he had undergone treatment for a gambling addiction and feared for his safety. He was banned that October and missed the final six matches of the 2021 season and SKC’s two playoff games as a result. He had missed many more while the investigation was ongoing.

He was reinstated in time for the start of the 2022 season in January 2022. The terms of his reinstatement in 2022 specified that he must continue to abstain from gambling, and the league and his club both committed to helping him receive support and counseling as necessary.

An investigation has been launched into the new alleged breach. Hernandez cannot train or play for his team, who are halfway through their season, while the investigation is conducted. He has played a bit-part role for SKC this year but had started two of the last three matches.

Flurry of investigations into athletes continues

Just earlier this month, MLBl issued a lifetime ban to San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano after finding that he had placed bets on his own team’s games. In another high-profile case in April, Toronto Raptors center Jontay Porter was banned from the NBA for life after an investigation found he had bet on games.

In Porter’s case, he was also found to have used and shared confidential information, among other violations related to gambling. Four alleged co-conspirators have since been arrested in relation to Porter’s infractions.

Hernandez is far from the first case in soccer, either.

Two notable instances in Europe last year saw Brentford striker Ivan Toney banned for eight games in May 2023 over betting allegations and Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali given a 10-month ban in October 2023 for gambling on Italian league matches while he was still playing in Italy.