LONDON – Eight badminton players were disqualified from the Olympics on Wednesday after a scandal over “throwing” matches while Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins won Britain’s second gold of the Games.
In the pool, Nathan Adrian of the United States beat pre-race favourite James Magnussen of Australia by a fingertip to win the 100m freestyle on a night of thrillingly close races that also saw two world records fall.
China added three more golds to their overall tally to consolidate their position at the top of the medal table, ahead of the USA in second and third placed South Korea.
But day four was dominated by the controversy in the badminton which led to four pairs in the women’s doubles competition — one from China, one from Indonesia and two from South Korea — being kicked out.
The Badminton World Federation confirmed that the eight had been disqualified for trying to lose matches in the round robin phase to manipulate the knockout draw.
A last-ditch appeals process was also scrapped in the minutes leading up to the scheduled quarter-final start time.
“The appeals committee chairman rejected the cases… the decision of the disciplinary commission stands,” said BWF secretary-general Thomas Lund.
The players involved had been charged with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”.
London Olympics chairman Sebastian Coe described the scandal as “unacceptable”, but officials said spectators who had paid to watch the farcical matches would not be refunded.
Leading badminton figures welcomed the disqualifications in a sport not known for its iron-handed discipline.
“Once you are on the court, like it or not, you have to try to win. That is why the spectators paid their money,” Charoen Wattanasin, executive board member of the BWF, and a Thailand Olympic Committee vice-president, told AFP.
“Sooner or later something had to be done,” he said.
Away from the scandal, Great Britain finally opened their gold medal account five days into the Games when rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were roared to victory in the women’s pairs by a huge crowd at Eton Dorney.
But they were soon upstaged by cyclist Wiggins, who became Britain’s most successful Olympian with a resounding victory in the time trial race held in bright sunshine at Hampton Court, the former residence of King Henry VIII.
Wiggins now has seven medals, one more than Steve Redgrave, but he vowed to keep riding until the 2016 Olympics in a bid to equal the rower’s five golds.
“What’s the point of seven medals if they’re not the right colour? Mainly it’s about the four golds. Now I have to go to Rio and go for five,” he said.
Australia’s nightmare Olympics in the Aquatics Centre continued when sprint powerhouse Magnussen was edged out of gold by the fingertips of Adrian — the margin of victory was just one hundredth of a second.
“I have big hands, I guess,” the American quipped.
Hungarian Daniel Gyurta set a world record of 2min 07.28sec to take gold in the men’s 200m breaststroke, while American Rebecca Soni smashed the world record with a 2min 20.00sec swim in the semi-finals of the women’s 200m breaststroke.
Soni looks in impressive form as she seeks to defend the title she won in Beijing.
Serena Williams’ path to the tennis gold medal looks less daunting after her sister Venus suffered a shock third-round exit.
While Serena started the last 16 action at Wimbledon with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Vera Zvonareva on Centre Court, Germany’s Angelique Kerber beat Venus 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5).