Eight badminton players at the London Olympics have been charged with trying to throw their matches after farcical scenes that led to competitors being booed by the crowd and threatened with disqualification by the referee.
All four pairs of female doubles players under investigation had already qualified for the next round and appeared to be trying to manipulate which team they would have to face in the quarter-finals.
The Badminton World Federation said it had charged the players, from China, South Korea and Indonesia, with 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".
It is unclear what sanctions they face but all of them are due to compete in quarter-finals on Wednesday afternoon.
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 on Tuesday as the players repeatedly hit shots wide or served into the net. The referee, Thorsten Berg, warned the players over their conduct.
The Korean pair won the match 21-14 21-11, ensuring that Wang and Yu will avoid playing their No 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final. The longest rally in the first game was four strokes, and at one point the match referee came on to the court to warn the players.
Yu defended her performance after the match, saying she wanted to ease up ahead of the knockout phase. "Actually, these opponents really were strong. This is the first time we have played them, and tomorrow it's the knockout rounds. So we've already qualified, and we wanted to have more energy for the knockout rounds."
The Chinese Olympic delegation has begun its own investigation into the allegations. A spokesman told the official Xinhua News Agency that it opposes any behaviour that would "violate the sporting spirit and morality".
The other match under scrutiny also involved a South Korean pair, Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, up against the Indonesians Meiliana Juahari and Greysia Polii. Berg threatened the players with disqualification because of their behaviour. The Koreans eventually won by two sets to one.
Polii said: "The referee said to us you are not playing very seriously and since he said that we felt intimidated and disturbed."
South Korea's head coach, Sung Han-kook, blamed the Chinese for Tuesday's events. "If they played right, the Chinese team, this wouldn't happen," he said. "So we did the same." The South Koreans have filed their own protest against their opponents' behaviour with the referee.
Petya Nedelcheva, the Bulgarian women's singles 15th seed, who was playing on an adjacent court at the time of the first incident, was forthright in her general criticism of China. "China control everything," she said. "I don't know who controlled the match to lose, but if it is China again … They did it so many times last year, they didn't play against each other in 20 matches. They do what they want."
The online magazine Badzine published figures in December last year showing that of the 99 all-Chinese matches played in major tournaments in 2011, 20 were walkovers or ended in a retirement.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © ell brown
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