Badminton: World No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon fails doping test but won't face a ban from world federation

Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon was facing a possible four-year ban before managing to convince a three-member hearing panel that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.
Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon was facing a possible four-year ban before managing to convince a three-member hearing panel that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - World No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon failed an out-of-competition drug test in April but the Thai star will not be banned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).

The BWF confirmed the news in a statement released on Thursday (Oct 10).

It said: "The ethics hearing panel determined Ms. Ratchanok Intanon committed an anti-doping rule violation, but as the athlete was able to demonstrate that her adverse analytical finding was related to the ingestion of meat contaminated with clenbuterol, she was found to bear no fault or negligence for the violation, and thus no period of ineligibility has been imposed on her."

Clenbuterol is listed under "S1.2 Other Anabolic Agents" on the World Anti-Doping Agency's 2019 prohibited list. It is used as both a decongestant and a bronchodilator and in some countries, is approved as a drug to treat asthma.

In the sporting world, it is used for weight loss and some athletes who have tested positive for clenbuterol include boxer Canelo Alvarez and 2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. Alvarez was subsequently cleared of wrongdoing as his results were blamed on ingesting contaminated meat. But Contador was stripped of his Tour title and his 2011 Giro d'Italia crown and banned for two years.

The 24-year-old Ratchanok was facing a possible four-year ban before managing to convince a three-member hearing panel, which included chair of BWF external judicial experts group Rune Bard Hansen, that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.

The panel noted among things the sufficiently low concentration of clenbuterol, the scientific evidence with respect to meat contamination in Thailand, and the scientific analysis provided in expert witness Dr Pascal Kintz's statement, and removed the ineligibility in full.

The decision read that while the 2013 world champion and former world No. 1 had committed the violation, Ratchanok "bore no fault or negligence for the anti-doping rule violation and thus no period of ineligibility shall be imposed".

This is not the first time in recent years that a high-profile shuttler in South-east Asia has violated the BWF's anti-doping rules. In 2015, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei, a three-time silver medallist at the Olympics and World Championships, was handed a backdated eight-month ban after testing positive for the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone during the 2014 World Championships.