Junya Koga, a Rio Olympic relay swimmer and 2009 World champion in the 100m backstroke, failed two March drug tests for banned “muscle-building” substances and has been kicked off the Japan national team, according to Japanese media.
“I feel ashamed, miserable and frustrated,” Koga said in a Wednesday news conference, according to Agence France-Presse. “I couldn’t believe it — I thought it was some mistake.”
The 30-year-old said the substances could have come from a supplement. He appealed to the World Anti-Doping Agency, according to AFP.
“I never took the substance detected intentionally,” Koga said, according to the report. “But I’m responsible for proving that. To those who support me, I’m deeply sorry.”
Koga was a surprise gold medalist in 2009 at the famous super-suit world championships with 43 world records (though Koga merely lowered the meet record in the semifinals and final). Aaron Peirsol, who had won three straight world titles and two straight Olympic titles in the 100m back, was eliminated in the semifinals.
Koga made one Olympic team, as part of Japan’s 4x100m freestyle relay that placed eighth in Rio. Last year, he took world championships silver in the 50m backstroke, which is not an Olympic event.
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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.
Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).
Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.
Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.
McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.
The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.
MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.
Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.
Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.
Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.
Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.