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Japanese vows to clear name in first Olympics drug case

AFP  |  Pyeongchang 

Japanese short-track speed Kei vowed to clear his name today after testing positive for a banned substance in the first doping case to hit the Pyeongchang

The 21-year-old is the first Japanese to test positive at a and he was immediately thrown out of the Games on Monday.

The case will no doubt embarrass Japan, organisers of in 2020, and again forces the drug issue to the fore after were formally banned for state-sponsored doping.

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," said in a statement.

The (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 of the Japanese Olympic delegation in Pyeongchang, Yasuo Saito, said the was the first Japanese to test positive for doping at a

The was "surprised and dismayed" by the outcome of the drugs test, he said.

Saito, a human biology student whose sister 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.

"Both samples tested positive," said the of the delegation, who is also the of the Olympic Committee.

Short-track speed Saito was a member of Japan's 3,000m relay team that finished third at the 2013 and 2014 world junior championships.

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 to

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 in Sochi, 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.)

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 14:00 IST