Eight female badminton doubles players were disqualified from the London Olympics after trying to lose matches to receive a more favorable place in the tournament, the sport's ruling body confirmed Wednesday.
The Badminton World Federation investigated two teams from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia. It accused them of "not using one's best efforts to win a match" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport" in matches Tuesday night.
Erick Thohir, the head of Indonesia's Olympic team, told The Associated Press that the Indonesian team will appeal. He also accused China of losing on purpose in the past.
"China has been doing this so many times and they never get sanctioned by the BWF," Thohir said. "On the first game yesterday when China did it, the BWF didn't do anything. If the BWF do something on the first game and they say you are disqualified, it is a warning for everyone."
IOC Vice President Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision.
"Sport is competitive," Reedie told the AP. "If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.
"You cannot allow a player to abuse the tournament like that, and not take firm action. So good on them."
The eight disqualified players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea's Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii.
The players went before a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, a day after spectators at the arena booed their performance after it became clear they were deliberately trying to lose.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had been at the venue but had left shortly before the drama unfolded. The IOC said it would allow badminton's ruling body to handle the matter.
Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of the London organizers, said there would be no refunds for the evening's badminton program. Chairman Sebastian Coe called what happened "depressing," adding "who wants to sit through something like that?"
Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. In the round-robin format, losing one game can lead to an easier matchup in the next round.
The Chinese players were accused of leading the way by deliberately losing a game. This led to other teams behaving in a similar way to try to force an easier quarterfinal. At one stage, both teams appeared to be trying to lose.
Wang and Yu and their opponents were booed loudly by the crowd after dumping serves into the net and making simple errors, such as hitting the shuttlecock wide.
The longest rally in their first game was only four strokes. The umpire warned them, and tournament referee Torsten Berg spoke to all four players but it had little effect. At one stage, Berg showed a black card, which usually means disqualification, but the game continued.
Eventually, the Chinese women lost 21-14, 21-11 and both pairs were jeered off the court.
The teams had already qualified for knockout round, but the result ensured that the top-seeded Wang and Yu would have avoided playing their No. 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final.
The problem was repeated in the next women's doubles between South Korea's Ha and Kim Min-jung and their Indonesian opponents. Both teams were also warned for deliberately losing points in a match the South Koreans won 18-21, 21-14, 21-12.
China's Lin Dan, the No. 2-ranked men's singles player, said through an interpreter the sport is going to be damaged.
"Especially for the audience," he said before the disqualifications were announced. "This is definitely not within the Olympic spirit. But like I said before, it's not one-sided. Whoever sets the rule should make it knockout so whoever doesn't try will just leave the Olympics."
Beijing badminton silver medalist Gail Emms said the matches were embarrassing to watch.
"It was absolutely shocking," she said. "The crowds were booing and chanting 'Off, off, off.'"
© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.