Stern vows to clean up league

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NEW YORK --- David Stern responded to a report on NBA referees Thursday by vowing to build the "most effective possible system" to monitor illegal gambling and preserve the game's integrity.

The commissioner ordered the investigation last August after former referee Tim Donaghy was accused of betting on games he officiated and providing inside information to gambling associates to win their bets. Donaghy began serving a 15-month sentence on Sept. 23 at a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla.

Stern promised to implement all the recommendations included in former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz's review of the NBA's referees operations department, the result of a 14-month probe that cost the league several million dollars.

"We will be up there with the very best. No one will have a better system than we do," Stern said on a conference call. "... We're going to have the most effective possible system that's ever been devised."

The report recommended the following: a hotline to anonymously raise questions about gambling and game integrity issues; making available any complaints the league receives about refs -- beginning in the 2008-09 playoffs -- to both teams to avoid suspicions of bias; and requiring officials to annually report their contacts among players and team personnel to the league so it can monitor fraternization.

The league already has made a number of changes, including restructuring its referees operations department and posting officiating assignments the morning of games. The report also suggests mandatory gambling education for players.

"We believe that gambling can expose the players and the league to significant risks, and therefore it is important that players be educated regarding those risks," the report said.

The 116-page document disputed Donaghy's allegations of specific misconduct and favoritism toward certain players and teams, but it warned that "because the potential for referee bias remains a threat to the integrity of the game, the league can do more."

It agreed with the federal government that there was no evidence Donaghy made any calls to affect the outcome of games after studying his work in 17 of them.

It also backed the government's stance that referee Scott Foster wasn't involved in any of Donaghy's misconduct.


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