THREE former North-East footballers have been disqualified from licensed racing premises after being found in breach of the rules of racing following a corruption investigation.

Former Newcastle United and Sunderland striker Michael Chopra was banned for ten years, while ex-Newcastle and Darlington midfielder, James Coppinger, received a three-year disqualification.

Mark Wilson, who played for Middesbrough and was an England Under-21 international, was also given a ten-year ban.

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Newcastle-born Chopra, who now plays for Ipswich, and Wilson, who plays non-league football, were found by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to have committed corrupt and fraudulent practices and offered a bribe.

Guisborough-born Doncaster Rovers player Coppinger was found to have committed corrupt and fraudulent practices.

The disqualifications mean the footballers cannot attend licensed racing premises such as racecourses or stables during the period of their bans, or have contact with licensed persons.

At the centre of the investigation were charges relating to former British-based flat jockey Andrew Heffernan, who has been disqualified for 15 years.

Heffernan, who has most recently been riding in Australia, was found in breach of all charges brought against him by the BHA disciplinary panel, which published its results yesterday after a hearing that started on January 14 and lasted four days.

The jockey's former girlfriend, stablehand Kelly Inglis, who previously worked at several stables in the Darlington and Barnard Castle area and now works in Newmarket, was found guilty of offering to receive bribes. She was disqualified for four years.

The inquiry centred on horses being laid to lose on betting exchanges in races that took place between November 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011.

The charges related to Heffernan's riding of three horses - Wanchai Whisper, Gallantry and Silver Guest.

Speaking earlier in the month, Chopra said he could not afford to pay the £50,000 legal fees to defend himself during the inquiry.

The 29-year-old forward also said he would welcome any BHA-imposed sanctions as he attempts to cure a gambling addiction.

Ipswich said Chopra would not be making any further comment.

Four other individuals - Paul Garner, Yogesh Joshee, Douglas Shelley and Pravin Shingardiawere - were also found in breach of the rules and were disqualified.