Lee Chong Wei’s doping scandal is definitely the biggest saga to have been heralded upon the country’s sporting scene in recent times, and it’s due in no small part to Chong Wei’s reputation as the nation’s Golden Boy. Doping scandals in general have extremely negative connotations attached to them, particularly since it’s more often that not regarded as cheating. Thus, fans were incredibly quick to relate Chong Wei’s drug test failure, to the infamous individuals like Lance Amstrong and Justin Gatlin.
However, the substance that Chong Wei inherently tested positive for was dexamethasone, which is not a performance enhancing drug, but rather used for medicinal or recovery purposes. Though obviously, than cannot be used as an excuse to trivialize the actual gravity of the situation. A hearing with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) is imminent, and Chong Wei faces the possibility of being suspended for two years.
But with so much of uncertainty in the air, particularly with the reasons behind his usage, and Chong Wei’s own personal reaction to the ongoing scandal, frustration is understandably taking a higher precedence, as far as the fans are concerned.
Thus, FourthOfficial exclusively spoke to Khawari Isa (Chief of Staff, News, Astro Arena), who is extremely close to the World No 1 shuttler. Khawari and his team from Astro Arena, travelled with Chong Wei to Oslo last week, to observe the testing of his B sample, which turned out to be positive as well. But according to Khawari, who also spearheads the Sportswriter Association of Malaysia (SAM), there is more to the scandal, than meets the eye.
FO: Hello Khawari, thanks for speaking with us. You are one of the few people to have spoken with the man himself, pertaining to the issue. What was it on a personal level, dealing with such a controversial case?
Khawari: I’ve been involved in our sports journalism world for more than 20 years. And I have to admit that this is the ‘biggie’, the one story that no one can afford to miss. And I am, indeed, grateful that I was given the trust and responsibility to cover the B sample testing in Oslo, Norway and I made the most out of it, by utilizing all opportunities to be close with the man himself.
FO: Could you elaborate on the methods or procedures that they used to test the B sample in Oslo?
Khawari: For this test procedure in Oslo, the athlete and his representatives were first given detailed explanation of the A sample results that turned out to be positive. After that, the lab personnel explained on how the Sample B testing will be carried out before the athlete and his representatives witnessed the opening of the frozen B sample. The sample then undergoes several testing procedures, which takes one whole day, before the lab then informs the relevant authorities of the result.
FO: Based on your exclusive observation and conversation with LCW, how was he dealing with the stress?
Khawari: I’ve known Lee Chong Wei for more than 10 years. He usually takes some time to warm up to people. With me, he is himself. His true self. Maybe because I am also quite close to his wife, Wong Mew Choo, especially during her playing career. During the two days in Oslo, I saw Chong Wei experiencing roller-coaster emotions. There were times he was happy, cracking jokes at almost anything, but there were also times when I saw him worried and nervous. Thankfully, he had his wife by his side to give him the support that he needed.
FO: Do you think that this was perhaps a massive mistake, instead of malicious intent, since dexamethasone is known to be a medicinal drug?
Khawari: I don’t personally think Chong Wei took the banned substance consciously. He is our ‘national project’ – an athlete that supposedly received the best treatment from all relevant agencies – because he carries our hope to end the wait for our first Olympic Gold medal. I, however, will not rule out the element of carelessness. Not from Chong Wei, obviously, but from the people of certain agencies that was supposed to take good care of him. Let’s wait for the thorough investigations, as promised by BA of Malaysia and the Sports Ministry.
Khawari: It will be massive. Currently, he is one of the two sports icons we have. The other one is Datuk Nicol David. If Chong Wei decides to hang his racquet due to this issue, it will be a huge loss for Malaysian sports.
FO: A hearing will be scheduled with BWF. Do you think the sentence will be reduced?
Khawari: I would like to be optimistic that BWF will acknowledged the fact that Chong Wei has done a lot for the game and, with the strong representation of the case by the renowned sports lawyer from UK, Mike Morgan, I am fairly confident that Chong Wei will come back and represent the country in international badminton competitions.
FO: How is LCW coping with the news and pressure from fans?
Khawari: For the first few weeks, it was tough on him. He shared his agony with me when we had some quiet moments in Oslo. But Chong Wei knows how to bounce back. He is more positive nowadays and I believe that he would be able to handle this entire issue well enough.
FO: Equipped with your understanding of the problems he’s facing, are there any specific messages you would like to pass on to his fans?
Khawari: Continue to support him. Chong Wei needs all the support and words of encouragements from his fans. Don’t forget that he has done a lot for the country. In his time of need, let’s give him our full support and pray for the best possible outcome.