Eight Olympic badminton players have been disqualified from the women’s doubles competition for “not using one’s best efforts to win,” a breach of the players’ code and a tenet of Olympic sports.
Two pairs from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia are accused of throwing Tuesday night matches to manipulate the draw for the quarterfinals, which began Wednesday.
South Korea’s appeal was denied, and Indonesia, which had appealed the decision, withdrew its challenge.
Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, the Chinese top seeds, and their South Korean rivals, Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, were booed by spectators as they hit shots wide and served into the net more than is typically seen in a world-class match. According to published reports, the players did not seem to be exerting themselves, and the longest rally in the first game was four strokes. The referee, Thorsten Berg of Denmark, went onto the court at one point and warned the players of their conduct amid a chorus of boos.
The Korean team won the match 21-14, 21-11 ensuring that Yu and Wang would avoid playing their
No. 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final.
There were similar signs of seemingly orchestrated mistakes in the later match between Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, another South Korean pair, and the Indonesians Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. Berg threatened the players with disqualification and showed them a warning card. The Koreans eventually won two sets to one.
All four pairs already had qualified for the quarterfinals, so the results of Tuesday night matches had no bearing on their placement, just who they would face in the next round.
The Badminton World Federation met on Wednesday morning to discuss the case. It released a statement saying each of the eight players was “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”
Yu said they were conserving energy for the quarterfinals and not trying to fix the matchups.
“Actually, these opponents really were strong. This is the first time we’ve played them and [Thursday] it’s the knockout rounds, so we’ve already qualified, and we wanted to have more energy for the knockout rounds.”
Speaking before the disqualification, South Korea coach Sung Han-kook told reporters: “The Chinese started this. They did it first. It’s a complicated thing with the draws. They didn’t want to meet each other in the semifinal, they don’t want that to happen. They [BWF] should do something about that.”
Gail Emms, a badminton Olympic silver medalist for Great Britain in 2004 was covering the event for BBC Sport. She said: “I’m furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport. This is the Olympic Games. This is something that is not acceptable. The crowd paid good money to watch two matches.”