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.