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Japanese short-track speedskater becomes first doping case of Pyeongchang Olympics

Japan’s Kei Saito leads Thomas Insuk Hong, of the United States, and China’s Lu Xiucheng in the men’s 1,000-meter short track speed skating competition during the winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in January 2012. (Kerstin Joensson / AP)
Japan’s Kei Saito leads Thomas Insuk Hong, of the United States, and China’s Lu Xiucheng in the men’s 1,000-meter short track speed skating competition during the winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in January 2012. (Kerstin Joensson / AP)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Kei Saito, a reserve on Japan’s short-track speedskating team, is the first athlete to test positive for a banned substance at the Pyeongchang Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Tuesday.

Provisionally suspended, Saito has agreed to leave the Olympic Village and will not participate in this year’s games, the court said.

Saito tested positive for Acetazolamide, which The Associated Press says “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.” His ban stems from a test administered Feb. 4, before the Games began.

Saito, 21, said he was “extremely shocked” by the positive test and denied taking a banned substance.

“I have never considered doping. I have never used anabolic steroids so I have never needed to try to hide it,” he said in a statement obtained by the AP.

But Saito agreed to leave the Olympic Village 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.”

Saito won a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay at the 2013 world junior championships.

The Japanese Olympic Committee stressed that it accepted the provisional suspension only because there was no chance Saito could clear his name before the Games were over.

“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, via the AP. “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.”


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