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WADA sanctions to hamper SEAG

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The staging of the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is facing a major challenge after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) imposed sanctions on Indonesia and Thailand.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) chair Steve Hontiveros yesterday said he expects the SEA Games Federation Council to come up with creative ways to deal with the issue to make sure that the biennial meet would be held without any trouble in Hanoi next year.

Together with North Korea, the WADA ruled that the respective national anti-doping agencies of Indonesia and Thailand were non-compliant for not implementing effective testing programs.

Thailand’s non-compliance, for one, stems from its failure to fully implement the 2021 Anti-Doping Code of the Canada-based anti-doping body.

With that, the WADA declared that the three countries would be suspended from hosting any regional, continental and world tournaments.

North Korean, Indonesian and Thai executives would also be barred from sitting as members of various sports-related committees until their respective countries have been reinstated for a period of one year or whichever comes first.

But more than that, North Korean, Indonesian and Thai athletes would not be allowed to don their national colors in major sports events other than the Olympics.

Indonesia and Thailand are already appealing the sanctions, saying that they are now taking serious steps to improve their anti-doping measures.

Hontiveros said the sanctions might hamper the staging of the SEA Games.

“It’s going to be an extraordinary SEA Games, not just because of the pandemic, but because of the WADA suspension on Indonesia and Thailand,” Hontiveros told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.

Hontiveros, the most senior POC official who maintains good relationships with other executives of the international sports community, said he doesn’t see any problem with the participation of the Indonesian and Thai athletes.

After all, they are two of the most active and most successful members of the 11-nation body who voted for the prestigious conclave to push through even despite the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

But with the WADA sanctions taking effect, their athletes, coaches and officials would not be allowed to march under their respective flags, making it hard for their governments to cover their accommodation, airfare, food, allowance and other expenses.

“If they will not be allowed to march under their flags, will their respective governments cover their expenses? Who will subsidize their participation? It’s something that we have to seriously put into consideration,” Hontiveros said, noting that Indonesia deployed 837 athletes while Thailand sent 980 competitors the last time the biennial meet was held in Manila in 2019.

The SEA Games Federation Council is set to hold a virtual meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.

“The meeting would be very crucial,” he said.

“It’s going to be interesting to know how the Federation would handle this because this incident is the first in SEA Games history.”

POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, however, doesn’t see any major problem that the WADA suspension on Indonesia and Thailand would create.

“No, it doesn’t affect the SEA Games because neither of them are hosts,” Tolentino said.

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