KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei was a relieved man on Monday after being handed a backdated eight-month ban for doping by the Badminton World Federation, leaving him free to go for gold at the Rio Olympics next year.
Lee tested positive test for dexamethasone at last year’s world championships. Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory that does not enhance performance but is on the list of banned substances.
The 32-year-old could have been suspended for up to two years but will be eligible to compete again on Friday after he voluntarily stood down last year when he was first told about the positive sample.
The BWF said Lee had been negligent but the backdated sanction was “correct and fair”.
“The panel is convinced this is not a case of doping with intent to cheat,” the world governing body said in a statement.
The anti-inflammatory drug, which is prohibited in competition, was found on the casing of gelatin capsules of a food supplement that Lee was taking, the BWF said.
“I am of course relieved,” Lee said in a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
“I accept the result. I will review back, and maybe...will be stronger mentally for the competitions to come.”
Lee, the winner of 55 titles around the world, had his case heard by a three-member panel in Amsterdam on April 11 and faced the prospect of a career-ending ban.
The lengthy absence from the court led to his ranking plummeting to 30th in the world and it could drop further with his world championship final defeat to China’s Chen Long disqualified by the BWF.
Lee was allowed to keep the two Asian Games bronze medals he won in Incheon, South Korea, in September as he hadn’t yet been notified of his failed test.
Lee will be free to take part in the May 10-17 Sudirman Cup, one of the first events with qualifying points for the Rio Games.
The year long qualifying campaign for Rio begins next Monday.
Malaysia will be eligible to enter two singles players in the men’s and women’s Olympic tournaments if they are both ranked inside the top 16 at the ranking cut off.
Lee is also likely to take part in the Southeast Asian Games in June before the World Championships in Jakarta in August.
Lee, Malaysia’s favorite sporting son, remains enormously popular in his homeland and was nominated last week for the country’s 2014 sportsman of the year award.
Additional reporting by Anuradha Raghu, writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore. Editing by Julian Linden