Saikhom Mirabai Chanu won India's first medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when she clinched silver in the women's 49 kg weightlifting event. Chanu's feat drew plaudits from fans across India.
However, days after Chanu's victory, media reports in India claimed that Chinese weightlifter Hou Zhihui, who won gold in Chanu's event, was asked to stay back in Japan by anti-doping agencies. The reports added that should Zhihui fail her dope test, Chanu would stand to have her silver medal upgraded to a gold.
On July 26, news agency ANI quoted an unnamed source as saying that Zhihui has been asked to stay back in Japan with a doping test "definitely" happening. An archive of the story can be accessed here.
Multiple Indonesian websites also reported on the purported dope test while attributing the news to ANI. Since Indonesia's Windy Cantika Aisah won bronze in the event, a failed dope test by Zhihui would have meant Aisah's bronze would have been upgraded to silver.
On July 30, ANI carried a report clarifying that the gold medal will stay with Zhihui and stating that "there has been no testing and it was an inadvertent error while reporting the news". However, neither ANI nor websites which published its erroneous report have taken it down or added an editor's note.
India Today also reported the purported development with sports journalist Boria Majumdar claiming that Zhihui's sample had been reported for "adverse analytical finding".
The India Today report, however, clarifies that an adverse analytical finding should not be confused with a doping violation.
An adverse analytical finding (AAF) is when a prohibited substance is found in an athlete's sample. However, an AAF does not mean an athlete has doped.
According to World Anti-Doping Guidelines, an AAF would not lead to doping sanctions if it falls under the following exemptions.
- The athlete has a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). A TUE is granted to athletes when medicines they take to treat illnesses or conditions contain prohibited substances.
- The standard of testing of sample does not conform to the International Standard for Testing and Investigations or International Standard for Laboratories.
- The AAF was caused due to ingestion of a prohibited substance through a permitted route.
BOOM reached out to the International Testing Agency (ITA) which is responsible for the Tokyo Olympics' anti-doping program. A spokesperson for the ITA told BOOM, "The ITA transparently discloses all apparent or confirmed anti-doping rule violations and publishes them on its website. Based on this principle, we do not share any comments before issuing any statements ourselves. We have not issued any statement regarding the athlete you mention."
In accordance with its transparency policy, the ITA published a report on Kenyan sprinter Mark Odhiambo testing positive for a banned substance on July 31.
However, the ITA did not confirm or deny if Zhihui had been tested in accordance with the the International Olympic Committee's anti-doping rules which guarantees confidentiality of athletes who have been tested.