Japanese skater suspended in first doping case in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Japan’s Kei Saito leads in front of Thomas Insuk Hong, of the US and China’s Lu Xiucheng as they compete in the men’s 1000 meter short track speed skating competition during the winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria in this January 18, 2012 file photo. (AP)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Japanese skater suspended in first doping case in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: Japanese short-track speedskater Kei Saito has tested positive for a banned diuretic in the first doping case of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Saito, a reserve on the 5,000-meter relay team, tested positive for acetalozamide, which can be used to treat conditions such as glaucoma and altitude sickness but can also be a masking agent to disguise the use of other banned substances.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced the case Tuesday, saying Saito “accepted on a voluntary basis to be provisionally suspended and to leave the Olympic Village.”
Saito did not race in any event before the test result from a pre-competition sample was confirmed. CAS said its judging panel handling Olympic doping cases will issue a final verdict after the games are over.
The Japanese Olympic Committee said Saito was tested after training on February 4, just before he went to bed in the athletes village.
In a statement, Saito denied intentionally doping and said he was “extremely shocked” by the results.
“I have never considered doping. I have never used anabolic steroids so I have never needed to try to hide it,” he said in the statement.
He said he accepted the provisional suspension because “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.”
Yasuo Saito, Vice President of the Japan Olympic Committee, said the JOC would work to help the 21-year-old skater clear his name after the Olympics.
“At this point, all we know is that the sample A and sample B tested positive. It is impossible for us to submit any evidence that prove them otherwise during the limited time,” Japan’s delegation leader said. “That is why we had to go with the provisional measure. The violation of the anti-doping rules has not been proven, so it is not decided yet. So please understand that point.
“Saito has no idea why this has happened, so we as Japanese Olympic team continue to make every effort to prove that there was no anti-rule violation by Kei Saito.”


Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

Updated 20 August 2018
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Belief running high for Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons

  • Where others have picked over-aged players, Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their U-21 team
  • Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabia’s football team are doing things differently at the Asian Games this month. The three-week tournament is open to players aged under-23, with countries having the option to select three over-age players. The result is hosts Indonesia have selected a 37-year-old naturalized Brazilian and South Korea, whose players can avoid mandatory military service if they win gold, have called upon Heung-min Son, the Tottenham Hotspur forward.
Saudi Arabia, in contrast, have brought their Under-21 team.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri, who has been in charge of the side for three years, does not shy from the fact his Young Falcons are here primarily to gain experience and develop ahead of a crucial U23 Asian Championships, which offers direct qualification to the Olympic Games.

Yet he is also aware the deeper his side go this month, the more it will ultimately benefit the Kingdom’s Tokyo 2020 objective.
“We are playing here with an Under-21 team in a tournament that is for Under-23s,” he said. “But I believe in these players. I worked with them at the Under-20 World Cup in 2017 in Korea and this team is the future of Saudi Arabia. I do not doubt that, and the Federation is in agreement.
“The players need more experience, more games and strong tournaments, but we all believe in them and our work will continue on this path. This is the squad that we want to qualify for Tokyo.”
Al-Shehri arrived at the Games playing down the importance of results and focusing on performances, but after two games in Jakarta, his team sit joint-top of Group F alongside Iran, with whom they drew 0-0 in their opening game. A comfortable 3-0 victory over Myanmar on Friday means progress to the knock-out stages is all but secure, with today’s match against North Korea offering an opportunity to secure an easier Round of 16 draw.
Finalists in 2014, North Korea were expected to prove the most difficult opponent of the group stage, yet a draw with Myanmar and a 3-0 humbling by Iran have altered expectations for both sides. Al-Shehri, who will be without key playmaker Ayman Al-Khulaif today through suspension, is now expected to make several changes to avoid fatigue in what will be the Young Falcons’ third game in five days.
“I have 20 players and trust them all,” Al-Shehri told Arab News. “I am confident we can play a good game against North Korea because we have players hungry and waiting to take their chance. Everybody is ready to play and be involved. Whether we win or lose… all we want is to play games. We need to play more games to improve and the further in the tournament we go, the more games we play, so if we get to the final it’s very good for us regardless. Every single game we play between now and the Tokyo qualifiers is very important for us.”
Al-Khulaif, 21, has been instrumental in his side’s results so far, proving a constant outlet on the right of midfield and drawing nine fouls, including two penalties. The Al-Ahli playmaker made his Pro League debut last season, coming on as a 90th minute substitute for Taiser Al-Jassem against Ohod, and will hope this tournament can help him catch the eye of new Al-Ahli boss Pablo Guede.
Forced to sit out today’s match, he is looking to the positives. “I am sad to miss the next game, but I trust fully in my teammates to get a good result and it gives me a chance to rest and, inshallah, prepare better for the knock-out stages.”