Match-fixing claim rejected by volleyball world body

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Volleyball's world governing body has rejected claims by Thailand that Japan's women threw their Olympic qualifying match against Serbia at the weekend.

Thailand had complained after Japan's full-set loss to Serbia denied them a first ever berth in Olympic women's volleyball on the final day of the eight-nation qualifying tournament in Tokyo on Sunday.

Jizhong Wei, president of Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), said in a statement issued on Monday: "The FIVB has investigated the allegation of match fixing.

"The conclusion of the FIVB control committee in place is that there is no evidence to prove the existence of match fixing," he said.

"The reports received from the national federations of Japan and Serbia told us the same. Some witnesses in attendance at the match gave the same judgement."

Despite their own loss, Japan won a ticket to the London Games.

The tournament had been arranged to decide the final four of 12 women's volleyball spots in London, with the top-three finishers and the best Asian side among the rest bagging their spot.

"We have submitted a DVD and a report to the FIVB," a spokeswomen for the Japan Volleyball Association told AFP.

"The allegation is unfounded. As a matter of course, Japan wanted to win this match. The defeat has not given Japan any advantage in the Olympics," she said.

Had Japan beaten Serbia, Thailand would have also won a ticket to London along with Japan.

But, in this case, Japan would have been placed in a tough group in London alongside defending champions Brazil, the world number-one United States, Asian champions China and European powerhouse Turkey.

Thai media had claimed Japan threw the final match to avoid that particularly tough draw.

Japan and Thailand finished level on 12 points with four wins and three losses each. But Japan had a better set ratio -- sets won divided by sets lost -- and finished fourth in the table with Thailand fifth.

Thus Russia (7-0), South Korea (5-2), Serbia (5-2) and Japan (4-3) made the cut.

In London, they will join hosts Britain, the top three teams at the 2011 World Cup (Italy, United States and China) and the winners of the other continental qualifiers -- Algeria, Dominican Republic, Turkey and Brazil.

"We watched the match and we all realised there was something wrong with the Japan team," Thai head coach Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai told the Thai daily Nation.

"They played below their standard," he was quoted as saying. "However, I don't want to say out loud what happened, but I think anyone watching could see it. My team did their best in this tournament and I'm proud of them."