Chinese player quits badminton after scandal; IOC pressures sport for format change

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

LONDON – Disgraced badminton star Yu Yang quit the sport on Thursday after being kicked out of the Olympic Games, banished from the Athletes' Village and sent home to China.

Chinese newspapers, including the Shanghai Morning Post, reported that Yu had retired from competition in the wake of the scandal that saw her and seven other athletes disqualified for attempting to lose women's doubles group matches.

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China's Yu Yang, left, retired from badminton after being kicked out of the Olympics. (AP)

Yu was claimed to have posted a message on the Tencent microblogging service that indicated she would no longer represent her national team or take part in the international professional tour.

"This is my last game," said the message from a verified account in her name. "Farewell badminton world federation. Farewell my dear badminton."

According to the Associated Press, Yu also appeared on Chinese state television and made an emotional apology for her actions and those of her teammate Wang Xiaoli.

"We did not comply with the Olympic spirit," she said. "And did not deliver a match with our true level to the audience, the fans and friends."

Badminton’s world governing body bowed to pressure from the International Olympic Committee to revamp its controversial format in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that saw the four women’s doubles teams banished from the tournament.

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IOC chief Jacques Rogge held talks with badminton world federation secretary general Thomas Lund and made it clear that change in the tournament would be expected ahead of the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

"The overall principle is that the Games are about a good sporting performance," said IOC communications director Mark Adams. "When that doesn’t happen we need to take action."

The eight athletes have been sent home from the Olympics in disgrace while the actions of their coaches are now under investigation.

It is unlikely that any announcement regarding the new format will be made before the end of these Games as badminton tries to draw a line under the embarrassing incident. However, Rogge and Lund have a tacit agreement in place that the system will be overhauled in a satisfactory manner in the future.

[Related: Badminton scandal bad for sport, comedy for everyone else]

"They spoke and the outcome was actually very positive," an IOC source told Yahoo! Sports. "But that was primarily because the badminton people were not just open to change, but proactive about it."

Lund is reluctant to abandon the group formula entirely, even though it was responsible for the farcical scenes that saw two South Korean pairs, one Chinese and one Indonesian team deliberately try to lose matches in order to secure a more favorable quarterfinal draw.

"I think that the group system has been a great success but, obviously, given what has happened, it is something that needs to be looked at," Lund said.

The events of this week have made it clear that the present system is unworkable. Two options are being discussed and either of them appear to offer a solution that would eradicate the possibility of match-fixing. One is that group play is retained, but that only the pool winner progresses to the knockout stage instead of the top two finishers. Another is that a single-elimination tournament is implemented similar to other sports like table tennis, tennis and boxing.

[Photos: Olympic badminton]

The concept of groups with just one qualifier may win out, as the governing body wants to avoid a situation where weaker players from some less-established badminton nations travel to the Olympics and get to play only one match.

Appeals from the eight players by their federations were summarily rejected and replacement teams that originally lost in the groups were brought in instead.

Badminton has been an Olympic sport since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Despite this week’s controversy, its place in the Games is not considered to be under any threat.

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