Dope-ban triathlete hits out at Hong Kong Spartan Race organisers for not letting him compete for prize money

Ivan Lo Ching-hin protests his innocence after last-minute exclusion from elite category

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 1:51pm

Former Hong Kong triathlete Ivan Lo Ching-hin protested his innocence as organisers of the Hong Kong Spartan Race made a last-minute decision not to allow him to compete in the elite category of Saturday’s event.

Lo is serving a four-year drugs ban for failing to provide a urine sample in an out-of-competition test, but competed at the first Hong Kong Spartan Race in November last year.

Since the event is not governed by the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, nor a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, Lo was not breaking any rules by competing.

But in a statement in the small hours of Saturday morning, Michael Goodwin, Spartan’s Asia-Pacific managing director, said Lo would not be allowed to compete in the elite category, for which prize money of HK$17,500 was on offer for first place. Saturday’s event was the first leg of the Asia-Pacific Championships, for which US$50,000 in cash and prizes is on offer.

“Spartan is strongly committed to ... ensuring that our elite and competitive category athletes compete with fairness, transparency and sportsmanship and as such, we have deemed Lo ineligible to compete for points and rewards in our races during his period of ineligibility recognised under HKADC [Hong Kong Anti-Doping Committee] and the world anti-doping code,” said Goodwin.

Lo insisted he was not a drugs cheat and should have been allowed to take part, blaming the SCMP for highlighting his ban.

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“I was allowed to participate [in November] despite [the fact] that a ban had already been imposed on me ... Information regarding the ban was easily and publicly accessible,” he said in an email.

“I was looking forward to better my performance in the elite race category today, but the organisers made a last-minute decision that I was ineligible to participate ... I believe the decision to disallow my participation in the elite category resulted from an article published in SCMP online yesterday.”

Lo pointed out that Lance Armstrong, the world’s most famous drugs cheat, competed in a Spartan Race last year despite his lifetime ban for doping.

“I have never taken performance enhancing drugs,” he insisted.

“My ban was imposed due to me failing to give urine to a random inspector who showed up at my door as I was rushing out for coaching.

“I was ignorant about the consequences of that and have paid dearly for it ...

“The organiser Hybrid group have no regulatory basis to exclude me from the race, as they allowed me to compete in November 2016 and accepted my registration for this race weeks ago.

“I am disappointed that they made a sudden decision in response to media queries ... without giving me the opportunity to submit to testing ... [I] would be happy to be tested in order to participate at the elite level in the future.”

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The winners of the men’s and women’s elite races, Australian couple Brendan Hunt and Jade Ross, backed the organisers’ decision. They were not required to submit to doping tests after claiming the HK$17,500 cheques for first place in each race.

“I would love to have them dope testing everyone, at least the podium places. [Obstacle course racing] is getting a lot bigger, there is prize money, and any unfair advantage should be ruled out,” said Ross.

“They should incorporate the test after the race, especially the podium, to show straight away that they are not going to accept it and make people who are doping aware of that.

“There is nothing whatsoever right now. At the world championships they are starting to incorporate it, and they need to as it is a worry how widespread doping in sport is. If they were to incorporate doping testing at least it would rule that out and the races would keep their integrity.

“Just like you can’t cheat an obstacle, you shouldn’t be able to cheat with drugs.”

Hunt added: “Plain and simple, if you want to take the sport seriously, you need to put in place things like this.

“There is no other sport at the top level at either elite or high level that they don’t do it. Athletes need to be held accountable and if they are doing a wrong thing, and that is the same with obstacle racing. “There is talk of it going in the Olympics, so they need to start putting in place now things that can hold people accountable for, if they don’t, people won’t take is seriously.”