Japanese short-track speed skater Kei Saito vowed to clear his name today after testing positive for a banned substance in the first doping case to hit the Pyeongchang Olympics.
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.
Saito returned positive tests for acetazolamide, an unauthorised 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 athletes' Olympic Village voluntarily and would be provisionally suspended from all competition pending a full investigation.
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 Athletes Village on February 4.
He was woken up at 2:00 am the following morning by doping testers who took two samples.
He was pencilled in as a substitute for the 5,000m on Tuesday and could have raced in other events in Pyeongchang.
- 'No motive' -
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.
However, it works also as a masking agent that can hide or make it harder for testers to detect the presence of doping products.
Saito said he was innocent of any wrongdoing and had been tested prior to the Games, on January 29, and been found to be drug-free.
"As for the test results this time, the only possibility I can think of is that I accidentally and unconsciously put a banned substance in my mouth," he added.
He had no need to ingest masking agents, he said.
"I've never used body-enhancing drugs so I don't think about hiding it," he said. "There's no merit or motive for me in using this medicine."
The IOC and anti-doping authorities have stepped up testing for the Pyeongchang Games following revelations of a state-sponsored doping scheme at the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
The entire Russian team was banned from Pyeongchang but a loophole allowed 168 "clean" athletes to compete as independent athletes under a neutral flag.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)