Badminton world number one Lee Chong Wei has said he "never cheated" and will fight to clear his name, as he finally broke his silence on positive drugs tests that have shocked the sport. Reports that the Malaysian star tested positive for the banned anti-inflammatory dexamethasone at the world championships in Copenhagen in August have been circulating for weeks, although officials refused to identify Lee.
But the shuttler wrote on social media late Saturday (Nov 9) that he hoped to clear his name. "Thank u for having faith in me. I never cheated nor will I ever rely on banned substances," the 32-year-old wrote in the Twitter post. On his Facebook account, Lee wrote: "I just want to thank every one of you who had faith in me through these difficult times. There are so many unanswered questions and I hope to clear my name soon."
Lee has reportedly denied taking drugs to enhance his performance. Lee told The Star on Sunday: “I do not use drugs to enhance my performance. Maintaining a good name in the international stage is more important to me. I have worked hard all my life and I do not take shortcuts.
“I strongly believe that this is not my fault. One cannot even buy this banned substance from the counter at any pharmacy. It has to be prescribed by a doctor.That is why when I was asked whether I wanted to open up sample B, I did not hesitate at all.”
LEE DEVASTATED BY DOPING ALLEGATIONS
The national icon also posted on social media a link to an interview in which he describes himself as "devastated" by the allegations. In the interview, he tells friend and sports blogger Satwant Singh Dhaliwal: "I saw my entire life flash by me, the whole last 15 years just going up in smoke. I was devastated and just did not know what to do. 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."
Fans have been shocked by the allegations against Lee, a hero in Malaysia who is known for his humility and diligence. The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) said on Saturday the shuttler had been temporarily suspended after a second test on his urine sample - conducted in Norway this week and witnessed by Lee - came back positive, like the first test in August.
Lee - who is facing a suspension of up to two years, which could mean the end of his career - is now awaiting a hearing by the Badminton World Federation (BWF). No date has been set as yet.
Lee told The Star that he hopes for a positive outcome from the BWF hearing. "I do not know what the outcome will be (at the hearing) but I do hope for a positive one. I still have a chance to clear my name.
"My only fear is whether I can cope after the hearing and whether I can bounce back. One month has passed by. I find it easier to beat my opponents on the court than handling this. It has been tough, really tough," Lee said as quoted by the report on Saturday.
KHAIRY: WILL ENSURE LEE RECEIVES MINIMUM PUNISHMENT
Meanwhile, the Youth and Sports Ministry (KBS) will continue to work with BAM to ensure Lee receives the minimum punishment after failing a doping test, said its minister Khairy Jamaluddin, according to a Bernama report. Khairy said the ministry would also do its best to assist Lee to avoid a long layoff which would affect his world number one ranking, which the ace has been holding for the last few years, said the report.
Khairy, who had met up with Lee on Saturday, said he hoped the national icon would weather this "black episode" in his life. "I came to know about this since Aug 2 (when Lee was alleged to have failed the doping test on his Sample A) and I coordinated all investigations together with the National Sports Institute (ISN) and BAM, including meeting him. So, we will continue to work with BAM in investigating this case until the Badminton World Federation's hearing into it," he told reporters, according to Bernama.
Elaborating further, Khairy said BAM had hired lawyer Mike Morgan of England, who is skilled in sports law, to help in the issue. BWF, however, has not decided on a date and place to hear Lee's side of the story.
DIFFICULT TO WATCH OVER EVERY ATHLETE
Khairy said he hoped no one would point fingers at the National Sports Institute (ISN), which was supposed to have a medical specialist overseeing medication taken by Lee. "It will be difficult if each athlete has to be watched over by a medical specialist. In this case, Chong Wei was referred to a private specialist clinic, and this was not the first time he received treatment there. The clinic is on the panel of ISN, so it is too early to make conclusions on the role of the ISN in this case," he explained.
'Dexamethasone' is a steroid medicine with anti-inflammation effects for treating various health problems, including rheumatology.
POSITIVE RESULTS A MYSTERY
BAM and other officials have defended Lee, saying the drug was not performance-enhancing. They are probing if it may stem from treatment of a thigh injury in July, when Lee received stem cell injections.
Lee said he was informed that the drug was last injected into him on Jul 18 but he passed an out-of-competition test on Aug 15. "So it is indeed a mystery why this substance was found in my system on Aug 30," Lee told sports blogger Satwant in the interview. "At the moment I am confined to my house and have not even thought of returning to the courts yet."
Many Malaysians have rallied behind Lee, the country's most prominent male athlete. "I will always support you & you r not a cheater. You r Malaysian hero," one Twitter user wrote on Sunday.
Lee has been at or near the top of the rankings since 2008 though he has never won a world or Olympic title, often losing to his nemesis, the Chinese star Lin Dan, at the last moment. In the world championships in Denmark, where the random test took place, he lost to China's Chen Long in the final.
Badminton has seen few doping scandals, with previous controversies mainly stemming from judging inconsistencies and attempts to throw matches.