Basketball: US-born Chelsey Lee banned for life in South Korea over forgery allegations

Chelsey Lee at an awards ceremony in Seoul, on March 7, 2016.
Chelsey Lee at an awards ceremony in Seoul, on March 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

AFP - A US-born basketball star accused of forging birth certificates was banned for life in South Korea on Tuesday, after she tried to qualify as a local to play in the domestic league.

Centre Chelsey Lee and her two agents are suspected of fabricating her and her father's birth certificates to suggest she had a South Korean grandmother.

Teams in the Women's Korean Basketball League (WKBL) are only allowed two foreign players, but international players with a Korean parent or grandparent are not included in the quota.

Following a board meeting on Tuesday, WKBL Commissioner Shin Sun-woo said Lee will be suspended for life and her game records will be annulled.

Lee's team, Bucheon KEB Hana Bank, finished second in the 2015-16 season but their records and ranking will also be nullified, Shin added.

Shin said the league will now scrap the extra quota for overseas Korean players to prevent similar cases in the future.

Bucheon KEB Hana Bank issued an public apology, vowing to take legal action against Lee and her agents.

"We're very sorry," the team said, adding the club's owner and head coach will step down.

Miami-born centre Lee, 26, won the league's rookie of the year honours in the 2015-16 season after playing a major role in Bucheon KEB Hana Bank reaching the championship series.

Lee had been recommended for South Korean citizenship by the Korean Basketball Association and the Korean Olympic Committee so that she could help South Korea qualify for this year's Olympic Games.

But some of the documents she provided raised suspicion, and following months of investigation, prosecutors concluded the birth certificates were forged.