The South Korean women’s professional basketball league is considering permanently banning and erasing the statistics of star American player Chelsey Lee, accused of forging birth documents in an effort to qualify to compete in the domestic competition.
The KEB Hana Bank team’s records for its run to the 2015-16 finals could potentially also be removed if prosecutors prove in court that Lee fraudulently claimed a South Korean heritage, league spokesman Kim Ilku said on Thursday.
WKBL teams can each have two foreign players who face limitations in playing minutes in each game. But foreign-born players with a parent or a grandparent who was a South Korean national don’t count against the quota or face playing time restrictions.
“The league will start discussions on how to potentially penalize Lee and the team, and also strengthen the verification process when teams sign foreign players, but no decision will be made before a verdict is reached in court,” Kim said.
Lee, a Miami-born center, won the league rookie of the year honor for 2015-16 after averaging 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds for KEB Hana Bank, which entered the playoffs with the second-best regular season record and lost to Woori Bank in three games in the best-of-five finals. Lee later signed with the Washington Mystics in the WNBA then was waived, and hasn’t returned to South Korea.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said the birth documents Lee presented to KEB Hana Bank were fraudulent. Apparently, the man listed as Lee’s father didn’t exist, and the daughter of a dead South Korean woman listed in the papers as Lee’s grandmother confirmed she didn’t have other children.
The Ministry of Justice asked prosecutors to investigate Lee’s documents after the Korean Olympic Committee in April pushed for Lee’s naturalization so she could represent South Korea in international events.