Badminton: Malaysian player suspended after failing drug test, BAM does not confirm if it is Lee Chong Wei

Badminton Association of Malaysia deputy president Norza Zakaria (right) speaks to the media during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Nov 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Badminton Association of Malaysia deputy president Norza Zakaria (right) speaks to the media during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Nov 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A Malaysian men's badminton player has failed a drug test and has been temporarily suspended, an official said on Saturday, following widespread reports naming world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

Norza Zakaria, deputy president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), told a press conference that the player's B-sample tested positive for banned anti-inflammatory dexamethasone.

Lee reportedly flew to Norway to witness the second test this week following a positive result in an initial test.

But Norza said the player could not be named pending due process, including a hearing by the Badminton World Federation.

The date for that hearing has not been set, he said.

"The result of the testing confirmed the existence of dexamethasone in the sample," he said, adding: "We are still not at liberty to reveal the name of the player."

Reports of a failed drugs test by the long-time No. 1, one of badminton's top stars with a reputation for humility and diligence, have shocked followers of what is one of Asia's most popular sports.

Badminton is unused to doping scandals, with previous controversies mainly stemming up from judging inconsistencies and attempts to throw matches.

"I would like to inform you that we believe that this player is a very hard-working player and an exceptional individual," Norza said. "We also believe that this player has never resorted to 'short cuts' in his pursuit of success."

He said officials were still probing how the substance - which he said was not a performance enhancing but a rehabilitative drug - could get into the shuttler's system.

He confirmed the player in question had denied taking the drug on purpose but received treatment in July for a thigh injury.

Lee, 32, received stem cell treatment for a thigh injury in July.

"From our side, we have some justification that the player is innocent," Norza said.

"The main priority is to assist the player... because he is a part of BAM family. He has done a lot for the country."

Lee reportedly failed the drug test after the semi-finals of the World Badminton Championships in Copenhagen in late August, where he beat Denmark's Viktor Axelsen.

He then lost to China's Chen Long in the finals in another heartbreak for the shuttler who has been at or near the top of the rankings since 2008 but has so far failed to win a world title or Olympic gold.

He is Malaysia's most prominent male athlete and has been described by the prime minister as a national hero.

BAM general manager Kenny Goh, who had reportedly flown with Lee to Norway, described the player as stressed.

"Of course this player is going through some kind of stress... It has been very stressful, and he needs all the support that he can get at the moment," he said.