Japanese speedskater banned from Olympics for alleged doping


Image: Kei Saito

Kei Saito of Japan, left, during a 500-meter short track speedskating race at the winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in January 2012. Reuters

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Saito, who won a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter relay at the 2013 World Junior Championships, was tested after training on Feb. 4, the day the short track team arrived in PyeongChang, the Japanese Olympic Committee said Tuesday.

In a statement to the Japanese news agency Kyodo,

Saito strongly denied having knowingly taken Acetazolamide, saying he was “extremely shocked by the test results that have come back.”

“I have never once considered doping,” he said, according to Kyodo. “I have never used anabolic steroids, so I have never needed to try to hide it. I have no motive to use this substance, nor do I have anything to gain by using this substance. …

“The findings are beyond me, and I plan to fight to prove my innocence,” he said.

Doping — the use of drugs, hormones and other substances to gain a competitive advantage — has shadowed international sports for decades.

Russia was banned from the PyeongChang Games entirely in December as punishment for alleged state-backed doping at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Some Russian athletes are being allowed to compete as neutrals under the name Olympic Athlete from Russia.