Turkmen doping case puts wrestling under pressure

A WRESTLER from Turkmenistan became the first doping case at the Asian Games and has been disqualified, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said, days after it threatened to expel the worst-offending sports from future tournaments.

Rustem Nazarov tested positive for the banned substance furosemide, a masking agent, in a pre-tournament urine test last week, the OCA said.

Nazarov “has been disqualified from the 18th Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games 2018 ... and his results during the competition held on the 19th August annulled”, said a statement yesterday.

The athlete, 24, had competed in the men’s 57kg freestyle event and was defeated in his first match.

His compatriot Shyhazberdi Ovelekov won bronze in the men’s Greco-Roman 87kg category on Wednesday.

On Monday, the OCA’s president said that sports with the highest number of doping cases in recent Games could face punishment, including expulsion.

“We would like to see which sport in the past three Games had the highest number (of doping cases),” Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah said in Jakarta.

“When we know this sport we will put it under pressure. It will not be one of our sports anymore, or it will have less medals.”

A count of re-analysed samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012, carried out last year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), found wrestling had the third-highest number of positive cases, after weightlifting and athletics.

Wrestling has been hit with a spate of high-profile doping cases in recent years.

British freestyle wrestler Chinu Sandhu, who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, was handed a four-year ban for a doping violation last year.

Uzbekistan’s triple Olympic champion Artur Taymazov was last year stripped of his Beijing 2008 medal after his re-analysed samples tested positive for banned steroids.

Last week United World Wrestling, which governs amateur wrestling, decided to hand over its full anti-doping programme to the newly created International Testing Agency (ITA), according to the agency’s chief.

The ITA was set up last month, in the wake of the Russian state-sanctioned doping scandal that emerged from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. It is intended to back-stop federations and national anti-doping labs, which have proven vulnerable to manipulation.

Its director-general said last week it would regain the “trust” of athletes and fans who lost faith in the fairness of sport.

But other major international sports federation, including football, athletics and cycling, have not yet signed on.

Six athletes tested positive at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon including South Korean swimming star Park Tae-hwan, who was stripped of his medals.

Other athletes from Turkmenistan, a Central Asian country, have failed doping tests at major sporting events in recent years.

Weightlifter Umurbek Bazarbayev failed a drugs test at a world championship event in the United States in 2015, and track athlete Yelena Ryabova tested positive at the 2013 world athletics championships in Moscow.

Turkmenistan’s sports chiefs have been under intense pressure to deliver success, following a public dressing down from the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdy­mukhamedov after coming home empty-handed from the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics.

Berdymukhamedov publicly rebuked sports committee chief Kaakbay Seiidov for failing to “justify the trust of the nation”, threatening to sack him if he did not “increase the sporting authority of the fatherland”.

In 2012, Berdymukhamedov, who is a keen horseman, fired a previous sports committee head after a similarly poor performance by the national team at the London Olympics.

Oil-rich Turkmenistan, with a population of five million, have never won an Olympic medal, unlike their four neighbours in ex-Soviet Central Asia. — AFP

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