Gymnast Oleg Verniaiev out of Olympics after doping ban

KYIV, Ukraine — Olympic champion gymnast Oleg Verniaiev is set to miss the Tokyo Games because he has been banned following a failed drug test.

The Ukrainian gymnast said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he tested positive for the banned substance meldonium and was banned after a ruling by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, which hears disciplinary cases in the sport.

Verniaiev said the GEF “decided that the concentration of meldonium found in my body is sufficient to ban me for four years” and that the ban is backdated to run from November 2020. That could also rule him out of the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Verniaiev denies wrongdoing and said he will appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“The main question is how a banned substances got into my body?” he wrote. “Why did it happen at a time when there were no serious international competitions and there was only light training taking place?”

Verniaiev won gold on the parallel bars at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 and was the silver medalist in the all-around, in a dramatic, close loss to Japan’s Kohei Uchimura. Since then, his competitive appearances have been limited by injuries and now his ban, though he won all-around bronze at the last world championships in 2019.

The GEF and the International Gymnastics Federation have not commented on the case.

A positive test for meldonium led to tennis star Maria Sharapova serving a 15-month ban. Sharapova said she did not know it had been banned.

Meldonium is a heart medication developed in the then-Soviet Union, and was banned in sports from 2016.

It was also the substance which caused Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky to be stripped of a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Two Russian rowers were removed from their country’s Olympic squad last week after positive tests for meldonium.

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