China’s 'ping-pong prince' sus­pended over casino suit

New Straits Times - - Sport -

One of China’s best known ta­ble ten­nis cham­pi­ons has been sus­pended as head coach of the national women’s team, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing re­ports he was at the cen­tre of a gam­bling debt law­suit.

Kong Linghui has been sent home from the World Ta­ble Ten­nis Championships in Ger­many to as­sist an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the scan­dal, China’s state Xin­hua news agency said.

“His acts have been a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion of the dis­ci­plinary pro­vi­sions of national pub­lic of­fi­cials,” the China Ta­ble Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing its de­ci­sion to sus­pend Kong and or­der him to come home.

Ta­ble ten­nis has a huge fol­low- ing in China, which has long dom­i­nated the event on the global stage, and the al­le­ga­tions against the Olympic gold medal­list — nick­named “ping-pong prince” — Kong are dom­i­nat­ing do­mes­tic head­lines.

In a post on his Weibo so­cial me­dia ac­count, 41-year-old Kong said he was “deeply dis­turbed by the neg­a­tive im­pact” of the in­ci­dent but de­nied he had been gam­bling.

“My friends and fam­ily mem­bers went down­stairs to the ho­tel’s casino to en­ter­tain them­selves. I stood by to watch them. Dur­ing the time they were play- ing I went to get chips for them and left my per­sonal in­for­ma­tion,” Kong said.

He added that the “debt dis­pute” in­volved some of his friends and rel­a­tives.

But China’s top sport gov­ern­ing body said it had a “zero tol­er­ance” for “any kind of vi­o­la­tion of pro­fes­sional ethics and il­le­gal acts.”

“Well-known ath­letes and coaches should pay more at­ten­tion to their pub­lic image and the so­cial im­pact (of their be­hav­iour) and take the lead in com­ply­ing with dis­ci­plines and laws,” the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport said on its web­site.

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