Lee Chong Wei

World’s top-ranked badminton player fails drug test

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Lee Chong Wei, the world’s top-ranked badminton player, failed a drug test and has been temporarily suspended, according to reports.

“I have never cheated, not even made any attempt to cheat, thus this was like a bolt of lightning, destroying everything I had worked so hard for,” Lee said, according to a Malaysian blog.

The Malaysian reportedly tested positive for the banned substance dexamethasone at the World Championships in August, where he won silver, and could face a two-year ban.

Malaysian media first reported Lee’s failed drug test two weeks ago. Lee’s B sample results came back this week.

A Malaysian sports official called it an unfortunate and isolated case.

“I want to stress this is not a performance-enhancing drug,” Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters, according to the Malaysian Star. “It shouldn’t affect [public] perception of badminton [in Malaysia]. This is not Ben Johnson or Lance Armstrong.”

Dexamethasone is a glucocorticosteroid, which falls under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list. Glucocorticosteroids are often called “steroids” but cover a range of legally prescribed substances taken orally, injected or by IV, including asthma and anti-rash medications, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s athlete guide.

A substance is typically considered for the prohibited list if it meets two of the following three criteria:

  • It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance
  • It represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete
  • It violates the spirit of sport

Glucocorticosteroids are allowed to be prescribed for use outside of competition, as outlined by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Lee said he last received an injection of dexamethasone to treat a thigh injury July 18. It was out of his system by an out-of-competition test Aug. 15, Lee said.

“So it is indeed a mystery why this substance was found in my system in [the in-competition drug test] August 30,” he said in the blog post.

Lee, 32, won 2008 and 2012 Olympic silver, falling to Chinese star Lin Dan in both finals. Lee has also won three straight World Championships silver medals.

Lee is the only Malaysian to win multiple Olympic medals.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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