02/08/2012 05:36 BST | Updated 01/10/2012 06:12 BST

Badminton Players Help Define What 'Giving It Everything' Really Means

As hopefuls from every nation slug it out in each Olympic event, descriptions of what goes into each performance have been all too familiar.

Regardless of medals gained, competitors have 'given it everything', 'pushed themselves to their absolute limit', 'done everything in their power', [add your own favourite cliche to denote commitment to a cause].

Which makes sense both in personal and global expectations. These athletes have been training relentlessly for large chunks of their lives to produce flashes of brilliance on the Olympic stage, and their drive to be the best fuels the expectations of a spectator to expect them to give it their all.

You only need to see the reaction of British judo star Euan Burton after losing to see what victory and defeat mean at this level.

But badminton has shown that doing everything you can do to win is only acceptable in certain circumstances.

One shock result yesterday in the Badminton Women's Doubles triggered an extraordinary chain of events that has seen four pairs disqualified completely from the competition.

Defeat by Chinese second seeds Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei meant that the winner of the match between Chinese duo Wang Ziaoli and Yu Yang and the Korean pair Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na - both already qualified - would top their group and face the second seeds in the last eight.

Each duo decided that they would rather face another team in the quarter-finals though, thus doing their utmost to lose in astonishing scenes. The greater belligerence of the Chinese saw them pull off the loss, but this then caused Korean and Indonesian pairs to try and out-lose each other in the next game to avoid playing the Chinese pair in the quarters.

Four teams then, including the first and third seeds, all played to lose for tactical reasons. It was horrible to watch, and the slur that the pairs have put on the competition has been deemed serious enough for them all to be booted out of the contest.

This seems a fair result. The players were threatened with disqualification several times during their games, and the accusations they have been charged with - 'not using one's best efforts to win a match' and 'conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport' - accurately describe their actions.

Somebody blessed with talent who decides deliberately not to exert it is the exact opposite of what is expected at an Olympic event, or in any sporting competition.

But support remains for the disgraced badminton players. Guardian journalist Simon Jenkins has been one of many observers to have slammed the double standards of attaching an ultimate importance to medals and disqualifying athletes for following this mantra.

The players were absolutely guilty of not using one's best efforts to win a match, but in doing so were doing their best to win a tournament, or doing what they thought was best.

Doing your best is fairly subjective, of course. Was Usain Bolt guilty of not using his best efforts in the 100m at Beijing when his celebrations began 30m before the finish line?

On a more serious note, relay rounds are often used by the leading nations as an opportunity to use their lesser athletes and keep their superstars well rested for the final.

This is a strategy aimed at winning a gold medal in the final - not every individual race possible.

So in a sense the badminton disqualifications are a dangerous precedent - should every athlete who appears not to have given 100% be removed from competition?

It is here that 'giving it everything' requires further clarity. The badminton players were doing all they could to win a medal, but in such a bizarre way that it brought the competition into disrepute.

The rare circumstances (presumably the tournament structure will be adjusted in future to avoid a repeat situation) and the crowd baying for any scrap of quality makes it as unlikely that the need for disqualification will arise again as it is that the current appeals against these ejections will be successful

There can be some argument as to how much they are merited, but the premise of wanting to avoid opponents because you think you will lose to them - however realistic - falls well short of Olympic ideals.