Probe into thrown Olympic badminton matches widens
LONDON (AP) - Olympic officials demanded a deeper investigation into the badminton fixing scandal Thursday as China's coach took the blame for a match being thrown at the London Games and a player appeared to quit the tarnished sport.
The International Olympic Committee wants team coaches, trainers or officials of the four doubles pairs to be punished if they encouraged or ordered the eight, now-disqualified players to lose intentionally.
The doubles teams - the top-seeded pair from China, two pairs from South Korea and one from Indonesia - were also set to have their accreditations removed by their national Olympic bodies and sent home.
Defending Olympic champion Yu Yang of China went further by apparently announcing her retirement from badminton.
"This is my last game,'' read a posting on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service. "Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.''
Yu's retirement could not be immediately confirmed with Chinese badminton officials and was not referenced in an interview with state television.
"I think firstly we should apologize to the Chinese audience, because we did not demonstrate the Olympic spirit. ... We did not give the audience a game that fully demonstrated our skills,'' she said. "And it really resulted in a lot of negative influence.''
Chinese badminton coach Li Yongbo also issued an apology, saying: "It's me to blame.''
"We didn't take each competition seriously and follow the Olympic spirit of 'higher, faster and stronger' as professional athletes,'' Li added on Chinese television.
Yu and Wang Xiaoli, the world champions and Olympic gold-medal favorites, were one of four doubles teams that played poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the quarterfinals lineup.
"I will prove myself in future games,'' Wang said. "I pledge to play to my full strength in future games, in each competition, to build a new image of us among the audience in the future.''
Along with two teams from South Korea and another from Indonesia, it appeared to be the first mass disqualification in Olympic history.
The Chinese pair drew jeers as they intentionally lost to the South Koreans to rig the draw so they wouldn't have to face their second-seeded compatriots in the semifinals.
"We did not fully understand the significance of it,'' Li said. "As the head coach, I think I should, since the Badminton World Federation has already made the decision, apologize to the Chinese fans and audience, because, in fact, we didn't fully demonstrate the fighting spirit of the Chinese badminton team.''
Chinese Olympic leaders also criticized its players' actions.
"The behavior by Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli on court violated the Olympics ideal and the spirit of fair play,'' the delegation said in a statement released to the Xinhua news agency. "The Chinese delegation feels distressed over this matter.''
But the delegations of all eight players are facing action.
"We're making sure that at this stage that they consider also the entourage, in this case the coaches, just to make sure it isn't just the athletes who are punished for this,'' IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "We will ask them if they are looking at it. ... We have to leave them to take their decision. We'll be following what they do and what they say.''
If the IOC isn't satisfied, it could intervene to take its own disciplinary action.
"The NOCs are now making sure those athletes are leaving the village and are on their way home,'' Adams said. "The games are about good sporting experience and that's what we're encouraging. When that doesn't happen we need to take action.
"Is the line drawn under it? I hope in this case, yes. The clear message is: if this happens again then action will be taken.''
Indonesia's badminton federation on Thursday called for future Olympics to scrap the group stage format which can allow results to be manipulated and return to a straight knockout tournament.
But such manipulation is nothing new to the Olympics.
At the London Games in 1948, Britain won the men's double sculls after Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell intentionally lost an earlier round.
"Dickie decided we should lose the first heat so as not to meet the Danes in the semifinal,'' The Guardian quoted Bushnell as saying in his 2010 obituary.
"I wouldn't have had the nerve to do that. We could have won, but we didn't, and came into the semis through the repechage, avoiding the Danes'' until the final.
Associated Press writers Scott McDonald in Beijing, and Stephen Wilson and Foster Niumata in London contributed to this report.
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