LONDON - Leading English snooker player Stephen Lee was suspended from all competition Friday while authorities investigate suspicious betting patterns in a match against four-time world champion John Higgins.
The seventh-ranked Lee was stood down by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association pending an inquiry into his Premier League match against Higgins on Thursday. Higgins won the match 4-2 but isn't under investigation.
"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," a WPBSA statement read, "and therefore WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has taken the decision to suspend Stephen from competition whilst this enquiry is ongoing."
The latest inquiry comes after English prosecutors said earlier this month that there will be no criminal proceedings following match-fixing allegations against Lee in 2010 after a joint operation between the police and the Gambling Commission. The WPBSA is already conducting its own inquiry into the case, with Lee denying any wrongdoing.
Lee, who turned 38 on Thursday, can appeal the suspension.
Widely regarded as having the best cue action in the game, Lee has recently returned to form after a spell in the doldrums since 2006. He has won five ranking events in his 20-year professional career, the most recent coming at this year's PTC Grand Finals in China — his first title in six years.
Higgins, one of snooker's greatest ever players, was cleared of match-fixing allegations in 2010 but banned for six months for bringing the game into disrepute after being filmed in a newspaper sting allegedly accepting money to fix matches.