Top Japanese kayak racer Yasuhiro Suzuki has been handed an eight-year ban from competition for spiking a teammate’s drink with banned drugs in an attempt to rule him out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Suzuki, 32, spiked the drink bottle of his rival, Seiji Komatsu, while competing at the national championships in September, which caused Komatsu, 25, to fail a drug test and receive a ban ahead of the 2020 Games.
Komatsu denied any wrongdoing, which prompted the Japanese Canoe Federation (GTP) to launch an inquiry into the incident. An investigation revealed that Suzuki intentionally drugged Komatsu to cause his disqualification, and therefore increase his own chances of booking a spot on the 2020 Japanese Olympic team.
After details of the scandal surfaced, Suzuki admitted his involvement in the incident, but insisted that he was attempting to inhibit Komatsu’s performance without realizing doping would be detected in his probe.
"I was fretting. I did it as I thought he would overwhelm me. I didn't expect he'd actually test positive," Suzuki told the federation, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The federation called the spiking “extremely evil” and will consider banning Suzuki permanently as he has a history of sabotaging opponents, including stealing their equipment.
Suzuki and Komatsu had been considered among the top candidates to qualify for their home Games in Tokyo. They both represented Japan at last year’s Canoe Sprint World Championships in Czech Republic, where Komatsu reached the semifinals together with his K4 squad, while Suzuki finished 24th in the men’s K1 5000m event.
Komatsu, who was initially banned from competing following his positive drug test, has been cleared of all doping charges.