Cancer-hit Lee eyes badminton return, Olympic qualifying

Malaysia's badminton player Lee Chong Wei smiles during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in a recent photo. — Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei could return to the badminton training court within a fortnight after fighting back from nose cancer, an official told AFP on Thursday.

The three-time Olympic silver medalist, who has spent nearly five months on the sidelines, is already doing light fitness work after receiving a clean bill of health from doctors, Malaysia's badminton chief said.

"He sounded cheerful," said Norza Zakaria, president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia, after speaking to Lee on the phone. "Yes I think so," he added, when asked to confirm reports that Lee would resume playing in training in two weeks.

Norza also told the Star Online: "I'm sure he will be ready by the time the Olympic qualifying period commences on May 1."

Lee, now down at 15th in the Badminton World Federation rankings, last played competitively at the Indonesian Open in July. After losing to world champion Kento Momota of Japan in the semifinals, he flew to Taiwan for specialist proton therapy — where the cancer is targeted with a beam of protons —and chemotherapy.

But last month Lee, 36, insisted he was not going to hang up his racket. "I want to come back to court," he told a press conference, adding: "As of now, I am not retiring."

Lee also said he was targeting a competitive comeback at the All England Open in March, and was still eying an elusive Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Lee's unsuccessful attempts to capture Malaysia's first ever Olympic gold medal at three consecutive Summer Games were followed avidly back home, as was his long-running rivalry with Chinese superstar Lin Dan.

His last shot at the Olympic title at Rio 2016 ended in a crushing failure when the Malaysian lost out to China's Chen Long in a nailbiting final.

Nose cancer is perhaps the biggest blow suffered by Lee, who was banned after testing positive for a proscribed anti-inflammatory at the 2014 world championships.

Lee returned to the sport in 2015, after authorities accepted he took the drug inadvertently.

Mauritian official banned for

life after corruption charges

Badminton's world body has banned for life and fined Mauritian former council member Raj Gaya after a hearing over alleged misuse of funds, including money intended for an Olympic athlete.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) said in a statement on Wednesday that Gaya had been fined $50,000 by its ethics hearing panel following an investigation that started in June last year.

The charges against Gaya stated that grants or funding intended for the Mauritius Badminton Association (MBA) had been diverted into personal bank accounts and used "for his own benefit".

He was also accused of submitting forged accounting documents and falsifying or exaggerating expenses. The ethics hearing panel also looked into claims that money paid by the Badminton Confederation of Africa (BCA) to help shuttlers qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics had been siphoned off.

"The BCA allocated $21,485 to the MBA... and paid $19,150 (to) Mr Gaya for that purpose, of which about $18,000 should have been paid to the Mauritian player Kate Foo Kune," it said.

The player declared in a witness statement that she had received only $1,100, money the BWF said was paid in cash only after the player was "forced to pester" Gaya.

The former official said in his defense, before ceasing to cooperate with the BWF investigation, that he paid more than $1,100 but some money had gone to the national association for her expenses.

The panel ordered $5,000 of the fine to be paid to the player, a multiple African women's singles champion who was the Mauritian flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics.

Gaya had held positions with the BWF, BCA and MBA since 1999. In May the BWF banned two Malaysian players for 15 and 20 years for betting and match-fixing offences. — Reuters