Penalties on players, coaches in badminton match-throwing scandal reduced
The recommended penalties on Korean badminton players and coaches involved in a match-throwing scandal at the London Olympics were reduced Wednesday, a day after the players appealed the earlier ruling.
The Korea Badminton Association said the four female players -- Jung Kyung-eun, Kim Ha-na, Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung -- will be suspended from domestic and international play for six months, down from the two years recommended last week by its disciplinary committee.
The national team head coach Sung Han-kook and assistant Kim Moon-soo have been suspended for two years. Earlier, the disciplinary committee handed down lifetime bans on both.
The penalties were finalized at the association's board meeting.
Jung and Kim Ha-na formed one women's doubles team, and Ha and Kim Min-jung were the other doubles pair at the London Games. The four, along with a Chinese pair and an Indonesian team, were disqualified from the Olympics after deliberately hitting serves into the net and making other unforced errors, in apparent attempts to purposely lose group stage matches and manipulate knockout stage draws.
Jung and Kim beat Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China in straight sets in their group match. The top-seeded Chinese team appeared to be making mistakes on purpose to avoid the No. 2-seeded Chinese tandem, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, until the final. They received a warning from a referee.
In the ensuing doubles match, Ha and Kim defeated Greysia Polii and Meiliana Jauhari of Indonesia in three sets, but not before also receiving a warning for deliberately losing points and getting booed off the court. They were accused of trying to avoid facing Wang and Yu in the quarters.
For the first time in Olympics, a combination of a round-robin group stage and a knockout phase was introduced. Sixteen doubles teams were paired into four groups of four, with the top two teams from each group progressing to the quarters. Critics of the format said it could be vulnerable to attempts to manipulate results to set up easier matches in the knockout stage.
Sung and other officials also blamed the Chinese players for forcing the hands of Korean players and making them do the same to avoid tough opponents early.
The Korean badminton governing body handed out the stiff penalties under pressure from the Korean Olympic Committee, which had vowed to take stern measures against match-throwing attempts in all sports. The penalties were soon met with public disapproval, however, for they would essentially end the careers of coaches and players who have made their share of contributions to badminton.
Making her appeal, one of the players claimed she only followed her head coach's orders and said, "I don't understand why we have to be penalized so severely."
In London, Korea earned one bronze medal in badminton for its worst Olympic performance ever. (Yonhap)