4 Chinese badminton players found guilty of not playing seriously

Li Jun Hui(right) and Liu Yu Chen of Team China react as they compete during a match at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Four Chinese badminton players are on probation for two years for failing to try their best to win a doubles match in 2018.

The incident happened in the Fuzhou Open quarterfinals in China in November 2018.

Then world-ranked No. 2 pair Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen were playing No. 17-ranked He Ji Ting and Tan Qiang.

Danish players observing reported to the referee the match wasn't being played seriously. The referee and tournament manager intervened during the second game when He and Tan led 21-15, 7-11.

The umpire and ref asked both teams to play their best. After the intervention, the match noticeably increased in intensity and speed and He and Tan won 21-15, 14-21, 21-19 but all four players were charged.

In interviews the next month, the players denied any wrongdoing and spoke of their familiarity with each other's game. Li and Liu added they were in bad physical shape after a long, mostly successful year.

A disciplinary hearing wasn't held until November and December 2021, at which tournament referee Pencho Stoynov said he'd never seen an incident like it in a 14-year career as a ref.

The Badminton World Federation revealed on Friday the panel found the players guilty of failing to use their best efforts. They were each given three-month bans, suspended for two years from Jan. 25. They also had to forfeit their Fuzhou Open prize money, $12,250 for He and Tan, and $2,187.50 for Li and Liu.

Li retired last November, after winning with Liu the Tokyo Olympics silver medal, senior and junior world championships, the Sudirman Cup, Thomas Cup, and Asian championships.