Blunder by athletics body cost our marathon runners glory, says MP

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Ong has put the blame for the blunder squarely on the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF). (Youtube screengrab)

KUALA LUMPUR: Two Malaysians clocked times that were faster than the national record at the recent Tokyo Marathon, but their feat will go unrecognised.

And Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming has put the blame for this squarely on the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF).

He said the MAF had failed to request for an anti-doping test in Japan for Leo Tan and Muhaizar Muhamad, and so the duo lost the opportunity to have their timings recorded as better than the existing Malaysian record.

In a statement, Ong called on Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to hold the MAF president accountable for not ensuring that the doping test was carried out in Tokyo.

“Imagine running 42km in slightly under 2 hours 30 minutes in 5-degree Celsius weather and setting what you thought was a national record for the marathon, only to find out that your record couldn’t be ratified by your country’s governing body for athletics.

“That was exactly what happened to Leo Tan in last Sunday’s 2018 Tokyo Marathon. He set what he thought was a national record, clocking a nett time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 28 seconds (gun time of 2 hours 25 minutes and 32 seconds).

“Not far behind Leo was Muhaizar Muhamad, 2017 SEA Games marathon bronze medallist, who clocked an impressive 2:27:21 nett time in his first overseas marathon,” Ong said.

Tan, based in Taiwan, had represented Malaysia in the 2017 SEA Games and finished fourth behind Muhaizar who is based in Kuala Lumpur.

Ong said for the MAF to ratify Tan’s timing as a national record, he had to undergo a doping test. However, as Tan and Muhaizar were not considered elite runners, the Tokyo Marathon race director did not allow them to take the test.

Tan, in a Facebook post, said he sought to have a doping test done after his impressive timing but was told by the race director that this was only done for “invited athletes”.

According to Ong, for Tan and Muhaizar to be eligible for the doping test, the MAF had to write to the Japanese Association of Athletics Federation, requesting it to ask the anti-doping agency in Japan to test the Malaysian runners if one or both of them were to break the Malaysian national record for the marathon.

“Unfortunately, this does not seem to have taken place,” he said.

Ong said this was not the first time such an incident had occurred. In 2017, he said, Tan had taken part in the Tokyo Marathon and achieved what he thought was a national record of 2:28:19. However, because he was not allowed to take the drug test, his record was not ratified by the MAF.

The current Malaysian national record for the marathon was set by Woo Chan Yew at the Montreal Marathon in Canada in September 2010 with a time of 2 hours 28 minutes and 36 seconds.

Ong said: “The MAF should have no excuse for not sending a request to their counterpart in Japan to ask for drug testing at the Tokyo Marathon for our top two runners if they broke the national record.

“It is disgraceful for these two Malaysian athletes to train so hard and to break the national record only to find that not only have their efforts not been acknowledged by the president of the MAF or the minister of youth and sports, but that the national record that one of them thought he had set is not even going to be ratified by the MAF.

“In contrast, Yuta Shitara, who set a national record in the same 2018 Tokyo Marathon with a time of 2 hours 6 minutes 11 seconds was rewarded with a 100 million-yen bonus (RM3.6 million) and was celebrated as a national hero in Japan.”

The Tokyo Marathon was won by Dickson Chumba of Kenya, with a time of 2 hours 5 minutes and 30 seconds.