PETALING JAYA: “Syukur alhamdulillah ... lega saya (Praise God ... I’m relieved).”
Those were the first words Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom uttered after learning that he can rejoin the elite track cycling squad in Melbourne as early as next week.
Shah had his 18-month ban for being tested positive for dexamethasone reduced to 12 months by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) appeal panel in Ipoh on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Muar cyclist, who tested positive for the banned substance after winning the bronze medal in the men’s 200m sprint at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Kangar last year, can resume active cycling from June 1.
“I felt so relieved after receiving the news just now. I can resume training with Azizulhasni (Awang) and Mohd Firdaus (Mohd Zonis) in Melbourne.
“I’ve endured weeks of uncertainty after being banned for 18 months.
“I thought it was a bit harsh but am happy with the outcome of the appeal,” said Shah, who intends to return to Melbourne as soon as possible to get ready for the new track cycling season towards end of the year.
“I’ve not been told of the exact dates yet but it should be any time next week. I’ve been training on my own at the Cheras Velodrome while waiting for the outcome.
“I may compete in the national track championships in Japan and China in July together with Azizul and Firdaus,” said Shah.
“We need points from the World Cup to help Malaysia earn slots for the 2016 Olympics,” added Shah, who is in line to take over from three-time World Championships medallist Azizul in the future.
MNCF vice-president Datuk Amarjit Singh Gill said the panel decided to reduce the sentence because there was a delay in informing the athlete of the lab test results. This, he added, had raised doubts in the panel’s minds.
The appeal panel was chaired by Asian Football Confederation medical committee chairman Datuk Dr Gurcharan Singh, lawyer Pritam Singh Doal and former national cyclist M. Kumaresan.
“The test result was only made known to MNCF in late February. We formed a hearing doping panel and witnesses were called,” said Ipoh-based lawyer Amarjit.
“The panel is satisfied that the reduction of the suspension to 12 months is justified and it ends on May 30.
“I’d like to advise athletes to always take precautions and to know what they are consuming. In doping matters, it’s a strict liability and an athlete is responsible for whatever substance that may be in his system.”