8 Olympic athletes banned for trying to lose

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8 Olympic athletes banned for trying to lose

From Comcast SportsNet
LONDON (AP) -- Eight female badminton doubles players were disqualified Wednesday from the London Olympics after trying to lose matches to receive a more favorable place in the tournament. The Badminton World Federation announced its ruling after investigating two teams from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia. It punished them for "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" in matches Tuesday night. "We applaud the federation for having taken swift and decisive action," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press. "Such behavior is incompatible with the Olympic values." Erick Thohir, the head of Indonesia's Olympic team, told the AP that the Indonesian team will appeal. The BWF said South Korea had also appealed. The competition was to continue later Wednesday. It was unclear if four eliminated teams would be placed into the quarterfinals or if the competition would restart at the semifinal stage. Thohir accused Chinese players of losing on purpose in the past. "China has been doing this so many times and they never get sanctioned by the BWF," Thohir said. "On the first game yesterday when China did it, the BWF didn't do anything. If the BWF do something on the first game and they say you are disqualified, it is a warning for everyone." IOC Vice President Craig Reedie, the former head of the international badminton federation, welcomed the decision. "Sport is competitive," Reedie told the AP. "If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense. "You cannot allow a player to abuse the tournament like that, and not take firm action. So good on them." The eight disqualified players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea's Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia's Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. The players went before a disciplinary hearing Wednesday, a day after spectators at the arena booed their performance after it became clear they were deliberately trying to lose. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had been at the venue but had left shortly before the drama unfolded. The IOC said it would allow badminton's ruling body to handle the matter. Paul Deighton, chief executive officer of the London organizers, said there would be no refunds for the evening's badminton program. Chairman Sebastian Coe called what happened "depressing," adding "who wants to sit through something like that?" Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. In the round-robin format, losing one game can lead to an easier matchup in the next round. The Chinese players were accused of leading the way by deliberately losing a game. This led to other teams behaving in a similar way to try to force an easier quarterfinal. At one stage, both teams appeared to be trying to lose. Wang and Yu and their opponents were booed loudly by the crowd after dumping serves into the net and making simple errors, such as hitting the shuttlecock wide. The longest rally in their first game was only four strokes. The umpire warned them, and tournament referee Torsten Berg spoke to all four players but it had little effect. At one stage, Berg showed a black card, which usually means disqualification, but the game continued. Eventually, the Chinese women lost 21-14, 21-11 and both pairs were jeered off the court. One of the world's top male players, 2004 Olympic singles champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, called the situation a "circus match." The teams had already qualified for knockout round, but the result ensured that the top-seeded Wang and Yu would have avoided playing their No. 2-seeded Chinese teammates until the final. The problem was repeated in the next women's doubles between South Korea's Ha and Kim Min-jung and their Indonesian opponents. Both teams were also warned for deliberately losing points in a match the South Koreans won 18-21, 21-14, 21-12. China's Lin Dan, the No. 2-ranked men's singles player, said through an interpreter the sport is going to be damaged. "Especially for the audience," he said before the disqualifications were announced. "This is definitely not within the Olympic spirit. But like I said before, it's not one-sided. Whoever sets the rule should make it knockout so whoever doesn't try will just leave the Olympics." Beijing badminton silver medalist Gail Emms said the matches were embarrassing to watch. "It was absolutely shocking," she said. "The crowds were booing and chanting 'Off, off, off.'"

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.