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Japanese speed skater Kei Saito suspended from PyeongChang 2018 for doping

Kei Saito of Japan in training at PyeongChang 2018 ahead of what was supposed to be his first Olympic short track race. (Photo: Getty Images)
by Sonja Nikcevic, AIPS Media

PYEONGCHANG, Feburary 13, 2018 - Japanís short track speed skater Kei Saito has been suspended from the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games after having failed an out of competition doping test prior to the Games.

Saitoís case is the first procedure of the Anti-doping Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in PyeongChang, with the Japanese athlete being provisionally suspended by CAS for taking the banned substance diuretic acetalozamide. The substance contains a masking agent considered to mask performance enhancing drugs.

Saito has voluntarily agreed to leave the Olympic Village on Tuesday and is provisionally suspended from competing in all future events at PyeongChang and those organized by the International Skating Union (ISU) pending a full investigation.

With the 21-year old having not yet competed at PyeongChang 2018, CAS has confirmed that no results at the Games have been affected by the violation. Saitoís debut at an Olympic Games was scheduled for the Tuesday evening when he was due to compete in the second heat of the Men's 5,000 Meter Relay.

The Japanese speed skater however insists that he is innocent and that he did not knowingly take any banned substances, but that he would not fight the CAS decision at this moment.

"I am quite surprised by this outcome of the test. I have never, ever intended to do doping. I got injured or I was sick I followed the instruction beforehand of the specialist. And I am very careful of what I eat and what I drink in everyday life.

"This is beyond my imagination, this outcome. If something different was in my body it is totally out of my intention.

"I will fight in order to prove my cleanness. However if I seek to fight against this decision by CAS that consequently would lead to some annoyance to whole of our team. In that sense I will accept the decision and leave the Village by my own will."

Saito speaks in a press conference following his suspension from PyeongChang 2018. (Photo: Getty Images)

The PyeongChang 2018 Anti-Doping Division

For the second time in the history of the Olympic Games, after Rio 2016, the CAS is in charge of doping-related incidents as a first-instance authority. This new structure handles doping cases accordance with the IOC Anti-Doping Rules, with the IOC and the Federations referring cases directly to CAS.

The CAS Anti-Doping Division (ADD) issues a ruling on these cases after directly hearing the parties concerned and has the power to issue provisional suspensions pending a full investigation. Athletes then have the option of appealing the decision before the CAS ad hoc Division in Pyeongchang or before the CAS in Lausanne after the Games. For the first time, the International Federations concerned may also intervene in the CAS ADD procedures in order that the same case be heard only once.

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