February 12, 2018 10:29 pm
Updated: February 13, 2018 11:39 am

Japanese speedskater fails doping test, 1st of 2018 Olympic Winter Games

ABOVE: Japanese athlete expelled from Olympics after failing drug test.

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A Japanese short track speedskater is the first athlete to test positive for a banned substance at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The Anti-Doping Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced Tuesday (South Korea time) that Kei Saito tested positive during an “out-of-competition” test.

According to CAS, Saito has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for acetazolamide, a diuretic and masking agent.

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“The athlete accepted, on a voluntary basis, to be provisionally suspended and to leave the Olympic Village,” CAS said in a statement. “As a consequence, the athlete is provisionally suspended from competing at Pyeongchang 2018 and at any future International Skating Union competition pending the resolution of this matter.”

The agency noted that no results were affected as a result of the doping case as Saito had not yet competed.

Yasuo Saito, Japan’s chef de mission, said his team member isn’t sure why and how his samples tested positive.

“I have to tell you… surprise was the first impression that Kei Saito had and put his heart in a very heavy place and Kei Saito could not understand how this came about. He could not think of any occasions or any possibilities that he may test positive for any of those substances,” the team head said. “This particular substance cannot be bought in Japan without a prescription. This is not an over-the-counter substance. You need a prescription for this in Japan and as it states in the athlete’s statement, this particular substance is a diuretic to be used to prevent high-altitude sickness, glaucoma, epilepsy and also sleep apnea.”

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The speedskater issued a statement saying that “if something different was in my body, it is totally out of my intention.”

“I do understand athletes should not do any doping and even unintentionally. Once 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,” the athlete said. “This is beyond my imagination, this outcome.”

Japan’s short track coach said he is “surprised and dismayed” over the test results.

“He has taken much education and much training against anti-doping rules, so I believe Kei Saito has a very high awareness about anti-doping. So it is beyond my comprehension how his samples can test positive,” Tsotomu Kawasaki said at a news conference.

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