Ja­panese speed skater vows to clear name in first Olympics drug case

Global Times - - World -

Ja­panese short-track speed skater Kei Saito vowed to clear his name on Tues­day af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for a banned sub­stance in the first dop­ing case to hit the Pyeongchang Olympic Games.

The 21-year-old is the first Ja­panese to test pos­i­tive at a Win­ter Olympics and he was im­me­di­ately thrown out of the Games on Mon­day.

The case will no doubt em­bar­rass Ja­pan, or­ga­niz­ers of the Sum­mer Games in 2020, and again forces the drug is­sue to the fore af­ter Rus­sia were for­mally banned for state-spon­sored dop­ing.

Saito re­turned pos­i­tive tests for ac­eta­zo­lamide, an unau­tho­rized di­uretic which can be used to mask pow­er­ful per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs.

“I want to fight to prove my in­no­cence be­cause I don’t re­mem­ber [tak­ing the drug] and it’s in­com­pre­hen­si­ble,” Saito said in a state­ment.

The Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS), which han­dles dop­ing cases dur­ing the Games, said Saito had left the Olympic Vil­lage vol­un­tar­ily and would be pro­vi­sion­ally sus­pended from all com­pe­ti­tion pend­ing a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The head of the Ja­panese Olympic del­e­ga­tion in Pyeongchang, Ya­suo Saito, said the skater was the first Ja­panese ath­lete to test pos­i­tive for dop­ing at a Win­ter Olympics. The ath­lete was “sur­prised and dis­mayed” by the out­come of the drugs test, he said.

Saito, a hu­man bi­ol­ogy stu­dent whose sis­ter Hit­omi is also com­pet­ing in Pyeongchang, ar­rived at the vil­lage on Fe­bru­ary 4. He was awo­ken 2 am the fol­low­ing morn­ing by dop­ing testers who took two sam­ples.

“Both sam­ples tested pos­i­tive,” said the head of the del­e­ga­tion, who is also the vice pres­i­dent of the Ja­pan Olympic Com­mit­tee.

Short-track speed skater Saito was a mem­ber of Ja­pan’s 3,000 me­ter re­lay team that fin­ished third at the 2013 and 2014 world ju­nior cham­pi­onships.

He was pen­ciled in as a sub­sti­tute for the 5,000 me­ter on Tues­day and could have raced in other events in Pyeongchang.

Saito was sum­moned be­fore a CAS tri­bunal on Mon­day fol­low­ing the pos­i­tive tests for ac­eta­zo­lamide, a med­i­ca­tion used to treat com­plaints rang­ing from epilepsy to heart fail­ure.

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