World

Chinese pingpong great suspended, ordered home from worlds

A Chinese table tennis great was suspended as the national women's team coach on Tuesday in the wake of a lawsuit over his alleged casino debts.

Kong Linghui was ordered to return from the world championships in Germany by the Chinese Table Tennis Association as it investigates the allegations.

The 41-year-old Kong won Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000.

The lawsuit filed in Hong Kong alleges he borrowed the equivalent of $721,000 from Singapore's Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino in 2015 and has failed to repay almost half of his debt, according to Chinese media reports.

Kong posted a statement late Monday on Weibo acknowledging he visited the casino with relatives and friends. He said he arranged for members of his party to receive gambling chips under his name, but added he didn't gamble himself and was "deeply upset" by the allegations.

"After the media brought to light this case today I immediately called some friends and relatives who were there at that time asking them what's happening and I learned someone has debt related to the dispute with the casino," Kong wrote in the statement. "I immediately asked the person who owed money to make a clarification."

Table tennis officials said Kong's statements about the lawsuit indicated he violated its discipline rules.

The country's General Administration of Sport issued a public apology for the "negative social impact" of Kong's case and urged high-profile athletes and coaches to pay greater attention to their public image.