Japanese Olympic speed skater suspended for doping
Japanese short-track speed-skater Kei Saito was suspended from the Olympics Tuesday for using a banned substance.
The 21-year-old reserve skater on the men’s 5,000-meter relay team tested positive for acetazolamide, a diuretic that can mask the presence of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
He agreed to voluntarily bow out of the games, but denied taking acetazolamide or any other drugs to gain a competitive edge.
“I have never considered doping. I have never used anabolic steroids so I have never needed to try to hide it,” Saito said in the statement. “I do not want to be a disturbance to my teammates competing at the Olympic Games … and will leave the team and the athletes village voluntarily.”
He has also agreed to leave the Olympic Village as part of his provisional suspension, which is being reviewed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
He was expected to compete in the relay’s second heat Wednesday, but the International Olympic Committee, which tests athletes, found the drugs before he participated in any events.
Saito will also be barred from any international Skating Union competitions pending further investigation.
Acetazolamide — also called “water pills” — increases the volume of urine, effectively diluting it and making other banned substances tougher to detect, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Russia was barred from this year’s games after the IOC uncovered a systematic, state-sanctioned doping scheme where agents swapped out about 100 steroid-using athletes’ urine samples for clean ones in the dead of night during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The scheme was uncovered in 2016, and Olympics officials stripped from Russia 11 of 33 medals the nation won at Sochi. Several athletes were also disqualified or banned, though 28 were eventually reinstated.
The IOC is allowing 169 Russian athletes to compete, but only as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” They may not display the Russian flag, and the nation’s anthem will not be played during medal ceremonies.
With Post Wires