Suspended shuttler Zhou Mi is welcome to seek a post-playing career with the Hong Kong Badminton Association once her two-year doping ban is over, the organisation's chairman said yesterday.
Zhou (pictured), 32, a former mainlander who settled in Hong Kong in 2007, tested positive for a low concentration of the steroid Clenbuterol after a routine drug test in June last year.
Studies have since found that similar concentrations of the muscle-building steroid can be detected in people who have eaten meat products contaminated by the drug. Clenbuterol is used illegally but widely in meat production on the mainland, particularly pork. In several high-profile cases in which athletes tested positive for Clenbuterol, bans were overturned.
Association chief Tong Wai-lun said Zhou had made great contributions and she still had a lot to offer.
'We feel sorry for Zhou as it appears the steroid showed up in her system as a result of eating contaminated meat,' said Tong. 'She has made a great contribution to badminton in Hong Kong since her arrival in 2007.
'We will definitely help her rebuild her career in the sport and offer her a position, such as coach or some other related job, when the ban is over.'
The former world No 1 appeared in a press conference yesterday in an attempt to clear her name. She called for a review of how offences involving Clenbuterol were handled. Her ban was handed down by the sport's world governing body in August last year.
'At the moment, even the slightest trace of Clenbuterol found in an athlete's body can constitute a doping infringement, which can destroy the whole life's work of an athlete,' said Zhou. 'I would like to make an appeal to all sporting governing bodies to reconsider Clenbuterol as a strictly banned substance - especially when test samples show very low concentrations of the drug.'
Dr Lam Hon-wah of City University said the concentration of Clenbuterol found in Zhou's system was inconsistent with what would be found in an athlete who regularly ingested the banned substance to enhance performance.
A source who has worked closely with Zhou's case said the World Anti-Doping Agency had recently changed its stance on Clenbuterol. 'If her case was considered afresh today, she would not get any punishment as the level is so low,' the source said.
Zhou said she would not appeal her ban because the deadline had past. She said she respected the system, but she insisted she was innocent. She added that she wanted to come back to Hong Kong to contribute further to the sport.