London Olympics badminton scandal raises ethical issues
Violation of the Olympic ideal or a strategic business as usual gambit?
Ethical and philosophical debates aside, in what is believed to be an Olympics first expulsion of multiple athletes for match throwing eight female badminton players from three Asian nations were disqualified Wednesday from the London Games.
COLUMN: Brennan: Scheming has no place in OlympicsVIDEO: IOC on badminton: It’s not acceptableWhy would any Olympian intentionally try to lose or tie, as was the case with the Japanese women’s soccer team?
The badminton players caught in a net of deceit did not use their best effort to win qualifying matches a night earlier at Wembley Arena because they wanted a more favorable draw in doubles competition, ruled the Badminton World Federation.
The federation banned the players from China, South Korea and Indonesia. An appeal by South Korea was denied.
Federation officials concluded that the players conducted themselves in a manner that was "clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."
The International Olympic Committee still could remove the players’ accreditation and force them to vacate the athletes’ village. It also can order further investigation.
"The international federation took the right action in disqualifying the athletes, and definitely that was the way to go,” IOC President Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press.
The same disciplinary option was not sought against the coach of the Japanese women’s soccer team. Norio Sasaki persuaded his team to play for a 0 0 tie with South Africa on Tuesday to avoid a quarterfinals trip to Scotland.
"There are a variety of questions people (should) ask: Have the players violated the game’s code of conduct? Another would be, is this a practiced strategy in badminton or an exception?"
Similar ethical quandaries shadow other sports, and sometimes there seems to be no clear cut answers.
If a Major League Baseball player acts as if he is hit by a pitch but is not, to force home the winning run, is that cheating or gamesmanship?
If an NFL punter fakes being run into by a defender fooling an official and drawing a penalty flag to change a game’s outcome is that a reprehensible tactic?
To wit: If a team’s goal is to win gold, shouldn’t it do everything in its power to mint that dream?
No doubt de Coubertin would have disagreed with that premise.
The founder of the International Olympic Committee, a French idealist and father of the modern day Games, once said: "The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The offending teams meekly laid down their arms, leaving some of their dismayed countrymen with utter disdain.
Before the disqualifications, China’s Lin Dan, the No. 2 ranked men’s singles player, said through an interpreter that badminton would be damaged.
"This is definitely not within the Olympic spirit," he told the AP.
Nor in keeping with its history.
"There are stories of Iranians throwing matches in international meets in taekwondo and wrestling to avoid meeting Israelis; at the Olympics, they have simply discovered unusual transient illnesses to avoid those matches," Olympic historian Bill Mallon said. "But this is the first of its type that I know of."
But such sham filled conduct is not new or apparently even looked at with raised eyebrows in badminton, which has its roots in ancient Chinese culture through a game called Ti Zian Ji. At that time, participants kicked the shuttlecock.
This time, China’s revered world doubles championship team of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang got the unceremonious boot.
Throwing badminton matches is a problem in international competition during qualifying rounds, said Niels Nygaard, president of Denmark’s National Olympic Committee.
The deceit infiltrated its way into these Games because this is the first time the Olympics held qualifying rounds rather than all elimination play, Nygaard said.
But Thomas Lund, secretary general of the Badminton World Federation, claimed the tactic is "not common" in international play. Yet he said the Olympic tournament brackets were arranged so there would be "no motivation" to throw matches.
Lund called the incident an "isolated case" that would not affect badminton’s Olympic status. The sport has a long, distinguished history, if not in the Olympics.
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