KUALA LUMPUR • A Malaysian badminton player hit with a career-ending 20-year ban rejected allegations of match-fixing yesterday and said he will appeal, claiming he was involved in a spot of casino gambling but not corruption.
Former world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkiffli, 25, was banned this week and fined US$25,000 (S$33,300) after the sport's world governing body ruled that he had engaged in corrupt practices dating back to 2013. A second Malaysian player, Tan Chun Seang, 31, was barred for 15 years and fined US$15,000.
The bans came after the pair faced a Badminton World Federation (BWF) ethics hearing in Singapore in February. But, at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Zulfadli insisted he was innocent.
"I have in no way spoken about, let alone been involved in, match-fixing," he said.
He added that he planned to appeal, and called for support from the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and the country's sports ministry in making his case.
"I will follow the appeal procedure step by step," he said.
A key part of the evidence against the pair were WhatsApp conversations extracted from their phones, which allegedly showed them conspiring to fix matches at tournaments around the world, the New Straits Times newspaper reported.
But Zulfadli claimed that some of their discussions were related to gambling in casinos - rather than fixing the results of games.
"Tan could gamble and I asked his help to gamble. A lot of badminton players go to casinos when they play overseas to kill time before and after their matches," he said.
He also claimed many of their discussions were about sponsorship issues, and that there were problems with how some of their WhatsApp messages were translated into English.
"My conversations with Tan were mostly on sponsorship issues, as we are backed by the same sponsors," he said. "Our conversations were also translated by the BWF (from Malay) to English, and it was incomplete."
Their bans began from Jan 12, the date on which both players were provisionally suspended by the BWF.
Neither player was affiliated with the BAM and played independently but Tan was in Malaysia's squad for the Thomas Cup in 2010.
He was banned by the BAM from competing in Asian tournaments for two years after quitting the national team in 2011. That year, Zulfadli beat current world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to clinch the World Junior Championships.