SINGAPORE - National para-athlete Mohammad Khairi Ishak, who has been slapped with a four-year ban by the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Committee for a positive dope test, is mulling an appeal.
When contacted by The Sunday Times on Saturday night (April 14), the 28-year-old para-sprinter was still coming to terms with his ban, which came into effect on April 6 and was announced yesterday afternoon by Anti-Doping Singapore (ADS).
He declined to elaborate, saying he had been instructed to refer queries to the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) and added that he is considering making an appeal but has not come to a decision yet.
Khairi has until May 4 to lodge an appeal with the National Anti-Doping Appeals Committee.
The formal ban came after he pleaded his case before a three-man panel at a two-hour hearing at the ADS office at the Sports Hub on Thursday night.
He had tested positive for methandienone, an anabolic steroid, in an out-of-competition test on March 12, and was handed a provisional suspension which barred him from competing at the ongoing Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia.
Khairi’s four-year ban is believed to be the second-longest suspension for a drug offence handed to a local athlete after bodybuilder Jojo Sinclair’s life ban in 1996.
An ADS spokesman explained that the four-year ban is based on the provisions of the revised World Anti-Doping Code that came into effect in 2015, increasing the period of ineligibility from two to four years.
Last year, Sri Lankan powerlifter Susitha Sudam Suraweera was also banned for four years after he tested positive for methandienone while competing at the Singapore Power Lifting Invitationals.
According to the ADS website, while most Singaporean doping offenders in recent times were bodybuilders, there were cases like former silat world champion Saiedah Said, who was banned in 2013 for two years after she tested positive for the banned substances Nor-Sibutramine and OH-Nor Sibutramine, which are appetite suppressors.
National canoeist Suzanne Seah was also banned in 2016 for two years, but for refusing to submit a sample for testing.
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.
He had told ST after emerging from his hearing on Thursday that he suspected his failed test was a result of him taking contaminated protein whey isolate – one of three supplements he takes to aid recovery.
The other two are fish oil and creatine monohydrate. In response to ST’s queries, an ADS spokesman said Khairi could submit the protein whey isolate for testing.
“For the banned substance that was found in the athlete’s system, the burden of proof is on the athlete to demonstrate how the substance entered his system, and one of the ways is to have the product (from the batch he was taking prior to the test) tested for the substance if he claims it is from a particular supplement,” said the spokesman.
Members of the para-sports fraternity said Khairi’s case is a timely reminder for athletes to be mindful of what they consume.
“He, and others, must learn from this mistake,” said SDSC vice-president Raja Singh.
“You may take something unwittingly but, according to the rules, that does not make you innocent.
“So the best thing is to always consult on everything you want to take, especially when you are competing at a level like the Commonwealth Games.”
Added para-badminton player Kelvin Pung: “I have attended doping workshops, where I learnt that taking a commonly available medicine for a cold could also make you fail a doping test. You can easily fail the test, without you knowing what you may have taken. So as an athlete, you really have to be informed about what you consume.”
Speaker of Parliament and Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin also urged athletes to be cautious.
He quoted ST’s tweet and posted on Twitter: “Athletes who are ‘playing games’ with doping and dope testing, be warned. There will be no leniency when found guilty.”