The recent news about badminton players in the Olympics allegedly not trying to win a match, because it would have meant an easier time in the next round, is perfectly understandable – especially to students of game theory. Most athletes are trying to win their overall event, if that means losing a particular match en route for tactical reasons then that’s the fault of the rules designers.
I’ve come across the same situation many times playing bridge and the answer is simple. Let the highest placed team chose their opponents for the next round, the next highest has second choice etc. This means that it’s almost certainly in your interest to win every heat or match. Having a fixed draw leads to the situation that supposedly happened in the badminton.
This change would prevent officials from having to decide whether players tried their hardest, an extremely difficult thing to do in most cases, the one that sparked the outcry being an exception as the competitors seemed to have shown a very lackadaisical approach to the affair.
There may be occasional problems with some sports when the locations are widely separated and teams need to know well in advance where they need to be, but these situations are rare.