SHANGHAI The Chinese men's basketball team have been suspended from training for a month following an on-court punch-up with Brazilian players in a warm-up for the Asian Games.
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) issued an apology to the Brazilian players and immediately barred the Chinese squad from practice while an investigation is carried out.
Violent scenes of Chinese players brawling were beamed around the world, tarnishing the country's sporting reputation further.
"The CBA takes full responsibility for this," Li Jinsheng, vice president of the CBA, told reporters.
"We have ordered the team to suspend its training and to reflect upon its mistakes deeply. The CBA sincerely apologizes to the Brazilian team, all the fans and media."
The game, which took place in Xuchang in central China's Henan province late on Tuesday, descended into violence just 66 seconds after the opening tip-off.
Players exchanged punches and kicks before the brawl was halted and the Brazilian players headed for the locker room.
As they were set to leave the court, however, the Chinese players charged again and the violence reignited, reported the China Daily on Thursday.
The game was the last in a series of three and was part of China's preparations for next month's Asian Games in Guangzhou. The teams had won a game apiece.
"This incident has exposed the lax administration and the educational shortcomings of the (CBA)," said Li, who vowed to mete out harsh penalties on key offenders before the Asian Games.
Chinese basketball has suffered from previous on-court violence, with a fight marring a game with Puerto Rico in 2005, while other sports, particularly soccer, have been plagued by scenes of players attacking each other and referees.
In 2007 several members of China's Olympic soccer team were sent home after a mass brawl with players from English side Queens Park Rangers during a training game in London.
"We will report the results of our investigations to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and FIBA Asia," said Li Jinsheng.
"The CBA is always strict in the sense of discipline. We will educate our players that fighting spirit on the court is not the same as rudeness."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford; to query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)