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Sports authorities have branded billiard player Zhou Mengmeng "very selfish" for deciding to go public with her spat with male teammate Tian Pengfei.

Zhou, 19, one of two female members on China's cue sports team at the Doha Asian Games last December, claimed during the event that snooker-player Tian had hit her in the stomach and face after harassing her.

She then pulled out of the Games after losing in the eight-ball pool semifinal, and created a media storm back home by announcing lawsuits against Tian and also the Multi-ball Administrative Center, the governing body of billiards in China.

The Center's spokesman Yang Jun'an said Zhou's actions undermined China's image in the sporting world.

"Zhou can't be defended as she wilfully quit the competition at the Asian Games, the second biggest sports event in the world," Yang said at a press conference in Beijing "It's a common quarrel between young friends that we could have easily solved inside the team or through legal channels. But instead, Zhou's selfish response has made it an incident that harms China's good reputation in the world."

Tian, 19, a double gold winner in the men's doubles and team snooker events, admitted he had had a physical conflict with Zhou, but insisted her reaction was an act of revenge.

"Yes, I pushed her once, but I didn't hit her and harassment is of course out of the question," Tian said at the press conference. "I once rejected her advances. I think she is exacting revenge."

Hefty suspensions

According to a statement issued by China's snooker administration earlier this month, the Center gave both players a one-year suspension from all domestic matches, and they will be barred from representing China until 2008.

Tian, who spends most of his time in England, was also required to formally apologize to Zhou, while Zhou will have to file a statement of self-examination.

Zhou's father, Zhou Ruxin, said the response was unreasonable.

"This is obviously unfair for me and my daughter. For sure, the officials are on Tian's side," he told Shanghai Youth Daily. "It's their bad management that led to the conflict and I think they should take all the responsibility. There isn't a clear standard for both players' punishments, which makes them meaningless."

Zhou Ruxin filed a suit in Shanghai's Songjiang district court on January 16, asking for 1 RMB as spiritual compensation and a public apology from Tian.

The angry father is planning another suit against the sport's governing body.

"I am set to sue the Centre before Spring Festival," he said. "The leading officials have always tried to hide the incident and don't show any sign of repairing the damage to my daughter.

"It is about making a statement. The lawsuit is not about money, but about what is right and what is wrong. We just want to clear her name."

In addition, Zhou Ruxin said the Centre had taken moves to hinder Zhou Mengmeng from joining the Women's Professinal Billiard Association (WPBA) in the United States this year, something denied by officials.

"We never tried to block her from competing in overseas competitions in the new season," Liu Rongyao, the Center's vice-president, said at the press conference. "It's her own decision whether she competes in the WPBA or not.

"We are waiting for the verdict from the court in Shanghai, so let's wait and see what will happen then."

Three Chinese cue players are now competing in the WPBA, namely Zhou Mengmeng, Pan Xiaoting and Chen Xue.

(China Daily February 2, 2007)

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