SYDNEY (Reuters) - Basketball Australia have reacted furiously to allegations their team deliberately lost a game at the World Cup last week, saying they were “downright wrong” and an insult to the country’s sporting culture.
Basketball’s world governing body FIBA opened disciplinary proceedings against Australia on Monday over suspicions they had lost a game against Angola in order to delay an encounter with powerhouse the United States.
“Basketball Australia categorically rejects any suggestion that the Australian Boomers were a party to contriving the result of the 2014 FIBA World Cup game between Australia and Angola,” read a statement released on Tuesday.
”The Australian Boomers went into the game against Angola to win – plain and simple.
”Claims to the contrary are widely speculative, insulting to the Australian sporting culture and to our playing group who gave their very best throughout this tournament.
“They’re downright wrong.”
Few crimes are perceived as being more heinous in Australian sport than giving less than 100 percent at all times, or ‘tanking’ as it is known in local vernacular.
Tennis player Bernard Tomic’s relationship with his country was severely, and perhaps permanently, damaged two years ago after he was accused of giving up during a match against Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open.
At the World Cup in Spain last Thursday, the Boomers were beaten 91-83 by Angola in the group stage, the result ensuring Australia finished third instead of second in their preliminary pool.
“The on-court behaviour displayed by Australia in that game generated huge disappointment by basketball fans and experts,” FIBA said in a statement.
“It is widely suspected that Australia lost the game in order to avoid having to face reigning world champions USA until the semi-finals.”
Basketball Australia said they were cooperating with the FIBA probe and had put forward a ‘strong and detailed’ case explaining why they had rested some players because of injury and restricted the game time of others because of fatigue.
“That decision was supported by clear and definitive medical advice,” the statement added.
”The health and wellbeing of our players is paramount. The World Cup group stage schedule of five games in six days is, put simply, gruelling.
“It takes a significant toll on athletes – and is precisely the reason why FIBA allows a roster of 12 active players.”
The Boomers were eliminated in a 65-64 defeat by Turkey in the first knockout round on Sunday and Basketball Australia said they were looking forward to the FIBA investigation being concluded as quickly as possible.
“Let us be extremely clear on this point: we, as Australians, always compete the right way,” the statement ended.
”The Australian Boomers are renowned for their tenacity, competitiveness and hunger to win. Basketball Australia supports a clean game, playing to win, and above all, integrity in the sport.
“As a world leader in integrity education, we welcome FIBA’s scrutiny – and we look forward to a resolution which closes the book on these fundamentally inaccurate allegations.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly