LONDON Aug. 1, 2012 -- They tried to lose to win. And now they have been thrown out of the Olympics.
It was a stunt so glaring, so obvious that the crowds jeered and the referees tried to intervene.
It began when Chinese top seeded women Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang starting serving into the net and missed easy volleys. Already guaranteed a slot in the next round, they want to let South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na finish at the top of Group A so they could avoid playing Chinese compatriots and second seeds Tian Qingand Zhao Yunlei at least until the final. If the strategy worked China could win gold and silver.
The South Koreans realized what was happening and responded by copying the antics of the Chinese pair. That prompted the referee to stop play and warn all players. But play resumed, the match ending unusually quickly with the Koreans winning.
But it did not end there.
The other South Korean pair, third seeds Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung, tried to orchestrate defeat in their game against Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They seemed to be trying to avoid Yu and Wang in the quarter-finals.
It gets worse. The Indonesians, spotting the shenanigans, tried to play along and lose too.
The crowd was incensed. As were the TV commentators.
Clearly the players had conveniently forgotten the words of the Olympic oath they had pledged just days ago: "In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."
It did not take long for Badminton World Federation to respond. This morning the eight players were kicked out the Olympic games, accused of "not using one's best efforts to win" and "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport."
All four pairs were accused of wanting to lose in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage.
Speaking before the verdict, Korea's coach Sung Han-kook said: "The Chinese started this. They did it first. It's a complicated thing with the draws. They didn't want to meet each other in the semi-final, they don't want that to happen…. They (BWF) should do something about that."
A new round-robin stage was introduced at this year's games in place of a straight knockout tournament. In this new system losing one game can lead to an easier game in the next round.
There is zero sympathy for the players who so brazenly tried to game the system.
"I'm furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport," said Gail Emms, a badminton Olympic silver medalist for Great Britain in 2004, who was at the event for BBC Sport. "This is the Olympic Games. This is something that is not acceptable. The crowd paid good money to watch two matches."
All this comes just a day after another controversy involving a Chinese swimming-star Ye Shiwen, a 16-year-old who snagged gold on Saturday in the 400 meter individual medley at a pace that shattered the world record by more than a second and knocked five seconds off her personal best in the final 50 meters of the race. She was even faster in that last lap than American medal winner Ryan Lochte in the men's race.
That victory prompted John Leonard, head of the American Swimming Coaches Association, to say her performance "was reminiscent of some old East German swimmer." That was a blunt suggestion that the Chinese were using illegal performance enhancing drugs as they had so frequently in the 1990's.
But Ye's doping tests came back clear and swimmers around the world jumped to her defense. The Chinese were indignant that anyone would suggest they would cheat at the Olympics.
Their cheating badminton players? They have promised to investigate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report