TAIPEI (CNA) – Two time Olympic gold medalist weightlifter Hsu Shu-ching (許淑淨) of Taiwan has been banned for three years from international competition since January 2018 after she tested positive for a prohibited substance in late 2017, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC) confirmed yesterday, saying it had not made the decision public until now out of respect for the athlete’s privacy.

Hsu, 27, has failed doping tests carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which has requested that she return the silver medal she won at the World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim, California in December 2017, according to the CTOC.

It said Hsu has already returned the medal and has resigned from her post as a coach at the National Sports Training Center in Kaohsiung, in keeping with the WADA’s requests.

The WADA has also asked the CTOC to publish a list of all the Taiwanese athletes who are currently banned from international competition due to failed drug tests, the committee said, adding that it received a letter to that effect on March 6.

Asked by reporters why the issue was kept under wraps until now, CTOC Deputy Secretary-General Cheng Shih-chung (鄭世忠) said it is not the committee’s practice to publicize the names of athletes who have been banned due to doping.

The information was not disclosed “out of respect for the privacy of the athletes” and “to spare them further harm,” Cheng said.

According to CTOC officials, Hsu passed the first drug test she took before competing in the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships but the WADA determined that she had abnormal blood profile results and it asked a Japanese lab to conduct another test using more sophisticated equipment.

The lab then confirmed in January 2018 that banned substances were found in Hsu’s samples, the officials said.

In a Facebook post in June 2018, Hsu announced her retirement from weightlifting competition due to injuries.

On Wednesday, she issued a statement confirming that the CTOC had notified her in late 2017 of the failed drug test.

She said the results were a complete surprise because as an athlete, she had been following WADA’s anti-doping rules and had been on high alert to avoid medication containing substances on the WADA prohibited drug list.

After missing the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade due to a leg injury, Hsu said, she took a dietary supplement recommended by friends and relatives to help ease psychological stress.

Hsu identified the product, which she said she used only once, as the cause of the failed test and said she was unaware at the time that it contained prohibited substances.

As a seasoned and elite athlete, Hsu said, she explained the situation to the CTOC and accepted the penalty.

Hsu won a gold medal in the 53kg category at the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, becoming the first Taiwanese athlete to win two Olympic golds.

According to WADA rules, athletes can be stripped of their medals, prize money or have competition results annulled if they test positive for a banned substance.

Since Hsu’s failed the drug test in 2017, she has not been asked to return her two Olympic medals.

However, according to anti-doping rules, athletes’ samples from each Olympics are stored for 10 years and are rechecked as new tests become available.

It means that if WADA has Hsu’s samples rechecked and they come back positive, she could still be stripped of her Olympic gold medals and the prize money awarded by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education to the country’s Olympic medalists.

A second Taiwanese weightlifter Lin Tzu-chi (林子琦), a former world record holder and Asian Games gold medalist, has also been banned from competition, for eight years and stripped of all medals, prizes and titles earned since 2016 for a doping offense According to the WADA, any nation with three or more positive drug tests in four years year can be suspended from competition for up to four years under International Olympic Committee Anti-Doping Rules.

As a result, if one more Taiwanese weightlifter tests positive for doping, local weightlifters could be banned from taking part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

These include Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun (郭婞淳), who won three gold medals in December 2018 at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) 5th International Qatar Cup, a qualifying competition for the 2020 Olympic Games.

By Lung Po-an and Evelyn Kao