Olympic Badminton Players Disqualified For Cheating To Lose

Eight badminton players have been disqualified from further participation in the Olympics after they tried to throw games in order to set themselves up for easier matches in the second round:

LONDON — Badminton officials took the extraordinary step of tossing out four pairs of women — two from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia — for deliberately trying to lose their preliminary matches Tuesday night, the latest judging controversy to sweep through the Olympics.

The decision came less than a day after the final matches in the preliminary rounds of the women’s doubles, where the players — all of whom had qualified for the quarterfinals — tried to throw their matches so they could face an easier opponent in the next round.

The shocking disqualifications threw the tournament into turmoil and prompted protests and calls for rule changes. Korea and Indonesia have appealed the decision, and officials hoped to rule on the appeal soon. All four sets of players were supposed to play Wednesday.

Thomas Lund, the secretary general of the Badminton World Federation, the sport’s governing body, said that the four sets of women violated the Players’ Code of Conduct, Sections 4.5 and 4.6, for “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.”

The federation determined at a disciplinary hearing that the players in two separate matches tried to serve into the net and hit shots out of bounds. Their play led to hoots and catcalls from the packed house at Wembley Arena, with some fans yelling, “Off, off, off.” In one match, a Danish umpire warned the players that they could be thrown out by flashing a black card, a rare action in the sport.

The disqualified players are Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang from China, the top-ranked women’s doubles pair, who lost Tuesday to the South Korean team of Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na, who were also disqualified. The players were presumed to be trying to lose because neither wanted to face the second-ranked women’s pair of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei in the quarterfinals.

Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung of South Korea and Meilana Jauhari and Greysia Polli of Indonesia were also thrown out for lackluster play in a later match Tuesday.

Even before the disqualifications, the matches Tuesday triggered hand-wringing throughout the sport. This is the first Olympics to include preliminary rounds in which four teams play one another once to determine who will advance to the knockout stage. The extra preliminary round was designed to give all teams — including those from weaker countries that might have been knocked out after one match under the old rules — a chance to play at least three times.

All four pairs who played Tuesday had secured spots in the quarterfinals, so jockeying for an opponent — not winning or losing — was the imperative.

Because the Chinese so dominate the sport and are so numerous in the tournament, they have an incentive not to play one another when possible. And because they are so good, teams from other countries do their best to avoid the Chinese until they have no choice.

Throwing matches has been a persistent problem, and some players and officials have accused the Chinese of being the worst offenders.

Niels Nygaard, the president of the national Olympic committee in Denmark, which has the strongest badminton players in Europe, applauded the federation’s decision and pointed the finger not at the athletes, but their coaches.

“For me, it’s really a matter of principle whether things are done in a correct way,” Nygaard said after the announcement, which was made in a packed conference room at the arena. “I don’t think it’s the rule that’s the problem. It might be the leaders behind trying to tell the athletes to do something like this. It’s the same in doping cases.”

 Appeals have been filed by the South Koreans and Indonesians, but it’s unclear how or when those will be heard before the tournament continues. After seeing a report about this on the news this morning, it was clear that something had to be done, though. It wasn’t just that these players were playing weaker than they normally would in order to lose, they were making it obvious by doing things like deliberately hitting the shuttlecock into the net or missing it even though they clearly had an easy shot for a return volley. Perhaps if they hadn’t made it quite so obvious, they might have gotten away with it.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Sports,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Chris Berez says:

    Just saw this on Twitter:

    Badminton federation rejects appeal by disqualified South Koreans; Indonesia withdraws appeal

    I’ve seen the footage as well and this is a complete joke. These players should be treated in the same way as athletes that are caught doping. Send them home in disgrace.

    In other news, this is honestly the first time in my life I’ve found anything remotely interesting about badminton.

  2. I don’t see anything wrong here, as they were clearly trying to improve their tournament performance. That fact that it’s possible to do better by strategicly losing is a problem with the design of the tournament, not the atheletes.

  3. Steve Z says:

    Agree with Stormy Dragon. This is a design flaw. No different than intentionally dropping a baseball to get a double play. Baseball fixed by creating the infield fly rule rather than sending the people exploiting the rules home.

  4. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I don’t see anything wrong here, as they were clearly trying to improve their tournament performance.

    Except that it is against the rules:

    Thomas Lund, the secretary general of the Badminton World Federation, the sport’s governing body, said that the four sets of women violated the Players’ Code of Conduct, Sections 4.5 and 4.6, for “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.”

    The coaches who chose this strategy effed up pretty badly.

  5. PJ says:

    With the current format in some cases you improve your chance to win a medal by losing a match.
    They could have arranged the badminton tournament like the tennis tournament, with only a knock out stage.
    There is a reason why the last matches in the group stage of the soccer tournament is played at the same time.

    The Olympics is all about winning, that’s why a lot of people are calling Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever, he has won the most medals.

  6. Franklin says:

    Can’t both things be wrong? There’s a design flaw, yes. But ‘not trying’ is against not only the spirit of the Olympics and sports in general, but specifically against the rules as pointed out by de stijl.

  7. James in LA says:

    Guess the Olympic Badminton Committee never heard of Sun Tzu.

  8. Mattt says:

    Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

    Sounds like the banned players were playing strategically, and were banned because their attempt to exploit a shoddily organized tourney bracket embarrassed the Grand Poobahs of the sport. How can people with enough competitive drive to qualify as medal contenders in the Olympics not be expected to play strategically?

  9. @de stijl:

    not using one’s best efforts to win a match

    How do we define “best”? The players clearly decided it mean putting themselves in a position to rank as high as possible in the tourney rankings.

  10. de stijl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The rule explicitly says “match” not “tournament.”

    Probably to deal with situations exactly like this where players were throwing matches to game the subsequent brackets.

    How do we define “best”?

    That would be within the purview of the Badminton World Federation. They determined the teams broke the rules.

  11. PJ says:

    @de stijl:

    That would be within the purview of the Badminton World Federation. They determined the teams broke the rules.

    Before the Olympics they were warned that the format they chose would most likely lead to this and did nothing. Punishing every player involved here for something everyone else but them saw coming….

    If a basket or soccer team, having won their group, decide to bench their best players for any remaining group games, and then perhaps lose games, would that be “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.”, if the same rules would apply?

  12. de stijl says:

    @PJ:

    Basketball is run by FIBA and Soccer by FIFA. As far as I know, these groups set the Olympic rules for their respective sports & and I have no idea whether they have rules designed to prevent throwing games.

    In my above comments I wasn’t trying to make any value argument about what the Badminton players did. And I agree that the design of the tournament could lend itself to this type of behavior (and will almost certainly be changed to a knock-out design going next go-round), but with the BWF rules in place against tanking, throwing a match was a extraordinarily bad strategy. Like I said earlier, the coaches effed up bad.

    If there were no rules against tanking matches, it could be very effective in a round-robin tournament design. Not “sporting” perhaps, but effective.

  13. Tom says:

    @de stijl: The loss strategy is one of the best efforts to win final the match. If there is something wrong is the WBF makes silly rule.

  14. Carl says:

    Why not DQ pursuit cyclists for not going full-out (not trying) the entire race and what about a swimmer or runner who is in the lead or in a preliminary and slows down at the end (stops trying) or does not come in first place when they could have or maybe in a marathon or road race setting a slow pace when obviously faster is humanly possible that seems to be a form of “cheating” according to this IOC mindset. If they think about this more they should reach the conclusion that there should be no silver or bronze medals or anything but pure elimination tournament forget about having a bronze medal game for 2 losers.