He's back: Lee Yong-dae (left), seen here with his usual doubles partner Yoo Yeon-seong, has had his one-year ban for missing a dope test overturned by the BWF. - EPA
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Thomas Cup task just got a lot harder, if it wasn’t daunting enough.
This is after the Badminton World Federation (BWF) overturned the one-year ban on South Korean doubles duo Lee Yong-dae and Kim Ki-jung for failing to show up for doping tests last year.
Yong-dae and Ki-jung who are respectively paired with Yoo Yeon-seong and Kim Sa-rang were slapped with the ban in January this year.
But a review of the decision by the BWF doping hearing panel has found that Yong-dae and Ki-jung were not at fault.
Instead, it was the Badminton Korea Association (BKA) who failed in their care of players which led to the pair missing the tests.
The BKA have been fined US$41,170 (RM133,703) for their apparent breach of conduct.
In a press statement, the BWF stated that “the doping hearing panel have determined that the information presented at the January hearing was insufficient and ambiguous”.
It also states that as such, the sanctions against Yong-dae and Ki-jung are now lifted and the pair are free to resume action immediately.
The decision may be music to the Koreans’ ears but it spells trouble for Malaysia who are drawn in the same Group C, together with India and Germany for the premier team event from May 18-25 in New Delhi.
With Malaysia’s doubles pairs’ poor results of late, the task of making it past the group stages seems almost mission impossible.
Nevertheless, national doubles coach Pang Cheh Chang believes that Malaysia still have a realistic chance with the right preparations.
“To be honest, it definitely makes our job a lot tougher now,” said Cheh Chang.
“But at the end of the day, it doesn’t make much difference because my players still need to focus on their own game rather than on the Koreans.
“The Koreans have proven that there is life even without Yong-dae and Ki-jung so it was a challenging task from the start anyway.”
During the absence of Yong-dae and Ki-jung, their usual partners Yeon-seong-Sa-rang combined well to make the semi-finals of the Singapore Open last week.
World No. 25 Ko Sung-hyun-Shin Baek-cheol, the third Korean pair, also hit a good patch with semi-final showings in the Singapore meet and the All-England.
“I believe what’s most important for Malaysia is this period of preparation. The team have one month of centralised training without matches to distract them,” said Cheh Chang.
“What my players need to work on now is their weaknesses. After several tournaments, everyone knows where they are weak and that is what we are looking to remedy.
“At the end of the day, I believe we can still pull through if we are well prepared and focused on the task at hand,” added Cheh Chang.