Ho Chi Minh City probes shady 'play-for-hire' scheme in its Taekwondo team

By Quang Huy, Thanh Nien News

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Taekwondo athletes performing at the Vietnam National Games 2014. Photo: Kha Hoa Taekwondo athletes performing at the Vietnam National Games 2014. Photo: Kha Hoa


Ho Chi Minh City is investigating its heavily-invested Taekwondo team after four of its top athletes played and won gold medals for other provinces at the 2014 National Games. 
The team, considered one of the country’s strongest with many athletes winning medals at international events, surprisingly ranked fifth with only one gold medal at the competition last December.
Several team members, however, won gold medals for other provinces, including Nguyen Quoc Minh, who bagged a gold for Binh Phuoc. 
Other players, Phuoc Dai, Nguyen Bao and Chi Khanh, won another gold for Ca Mau after the HCMC team itself withdrew at the final round of the team category.
Phan Nguyen Nhu Khue, director of HCMC Culture and Sports Department, said he has instructed the team to report on accusations that it played for hire and thus in essence “sold” medals at the National Games.
“Who allowed this? What was the motivation?” he said.
“The team has received so much investment and it has good athletes. It is unacceptable that it won only one gold at the National Games,” he said, adding that the city invests a total VND400 billion (US$18.8 million) a year in sports.
Khue also instructed inspectors to clarify the reason why the team had to withdraw from the team category, allowing its three athletes lent to Ca Mau to win the gold medal.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Tran Duc Phan, deputy director of the Vietnam Sports Administration said his agency has drafted new regulations concerning the issue of lending and transferring athletes at National Games.
“The draft was prepared after accusations of ‘medal selling’ in Taekwondo at the HCMC team,” he said.

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