After having nearly dominated international badminton for over a decade, Lee Chong Wei’s career might be over after he tested positive for the banned anti-inflammatory, dexamethasone. While the Badminton World Federation could hand out a reduced sentence, even this could rule him out of the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics. Chong Wei joins a long line of sportspersons whose careers have been tarnished by charges of doping. However, unlike many of them, he will perhaps rue how a small oversight, a minor indiscretion, could cost him a lifetime’s worth of credibility. Now, an illustrious career will forever carry a disclaimer.
Unlike Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong, Chong Wei hasn’t tested positive for a performance-enhancing agent, and so his achievements are less diminished. Injuries had been taking their toll on an athlete in the twilight of his career. The dexamethasone — whose use outside competition is legal — likely found its way into his body as part of medical treatment. Regardless of how the drug got in, it is uncertain whether Chong Wei will ever return to the court — deprived of a final shot at glory at the Rio Olympics and a medal he has never won.
As tragic as it might be if Chong Wei is unable to cap a magnificent career with an Olympic swansong, instances of doping are even more difficult for the sports fan. Armstrong, of course, was a deep betrayal, but there have been countless others — Marion Jones, the US sprinter; Alex Rodriguez, the baseball superstar; Floyd Landis, another cyclist; and Barry Bonds, a home-run record holder. Each case casts a shadow over future contests, with fans left wondering if all sporting results should be considered forever in flux, until it is verified that the athletes didn’t dope.