SINGAPORE - The recent case of sprinter Khairi Ishak being slapped with a four-year ban for failing a dope test has not tarnished the reputation of para-sports in Singapore, Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) chairman Kevin Wong told The Straits Times on Wednesday (April 25).
"I don't think it (para-sports' image) has taken a hit; I think we have always been transparent, we have not sought to hide the fact or anything like that, we even helped the athlete on how he needed to react, to behave," said Wong, also the Singapore Disability Sports Council president, on the sidelines of a para-sports event.
"It gave us an opportunity to show as an organisation how transparent we were. We weren't going to still send him for the (Commonwealth) Games and not be able to compete... we declared and informed the CGF (Commonwealth Games Federation) that he may not be able to go."
Khairi, 28, was slated to compete in the men's T47 100m at the April 4-15 Gold Coast Games, but did not travel to Australia after he tested positive for methandienone, a banned steroid, in out-of-competition testing on March 12.
Khairi, whose right hand was paralysed after a motorcycle crash in 2011, had won a silver (T46 100m) and a bronze (T46 200m) at last year's Beijing World Para Athletics Grand Prix and also represented Singapore at the 2014 and 2017 Asean Para Games.
The athlete told the media then that he had bought a supplement from a Malaysia-based company via its Facebook page and didn't know it contained a banned substance.
However, Wong said: "Every athlete is responsible for what he consumes. Athletes are role models, they train and compete and it is their job to do so within the competitive guidelines. You can explain as much as you can but ultimately, you know you are supposed to be responsible for what you put into your body."
Khairi was slapped with a four-year ban on April 14, and has until May 4 to lodge an appeal with the National Anti-Doping Appeals Committee. He told ST then that he was mulling over the appeal. ST has reached out to him for a comment.
Wong said the incident has been "a painful lesson" for para-sports, but said current anti-doping measures - from education to briefings to testing - is already "rigorous" enough, although Khairi's matter may be a "test case" for the fraternity here.
Wong said: "It is a painful lesson but he (Khairi) can now be the strongest advocate about what it takes to be an elite athlete. I hope he would share more and tell other athletes, able-bodied or disabled, that they need to watch what they are consuming.
"I think that could also really help him cope with and overcome the challenges, and make him stronger."