Tokyo 2020 - Olympic champion gymnast Oleg Verniaiev set to miss Tokyo 2020 after doping ban
The Ukrainian gymnast won gold on the parallel bars in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but has been banned for four years after testing positive for meldonium. The drug, used principally for heart conditions, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance list in 2016, with former tennis star Maria Sharapova serving a 15-month ban soon after.
Defending Olympic champion gymnast Oleg Verniaiev is set to miss Tokyo 2020 after receiving a ban following a failed drugs test.
The Ukrainian, who won gold on the parallel bars in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, revealed on Instagram that he had tested positive for meldonium and has received a four-year ban from Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF).
Verniaiev has said that he will appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and has denied wrongdoing.
The drug increases exercise capacity in athletes by increasing blood flow. Former tennis star Maria Sharapova served a 15-month ban after testing positive for the substance in 2016, soon after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added it to their banned substances list.
The standard ban under the World Anti-Doping Code is four years.
Sharapova claimed she had been taking the drug for 10 years due to a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes, while two Russian rowers were removed from their country’s Tokyo 2020 squad last week after positive tests for meldonium.
Verniaiev is set to be one of three male gymnastics gold medal winners who will not defend their title in Tokyo after the retirements of Fabian Hambüchen of Germany and Ri Se-Gwang of North Korea, who have also elected not to send a delegation to the Olympics this year.
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Though Verniaiev has struggled with injury since the 2016 Olympics, the Ukrainian has won a parallel bars medal at all but one of the previous five world championships.
Among the favourites for an all-around medal in Tokyo will be David Belyavskiy of Russia, Lin Chaopan of China and America’s Sam Mikulak, who finished fourth, fifth and seventh in Rio.
Gold medallist Kohei Uchimura and Team GB’s Max Whitlock, who won bronze, will not compete in the event, though both will be at the Olympics.
"I'm the oldest one in the team but I'm still hopefully going to every competition with the potential to win a title and I'm still seeing improvements in terms of what I can do," said Whitlock after being named in Team GB’s travelling party for Tokyo.
"There's more I can learn and there's hopefully no chance of me stopping anytime soon. A title would be a dream - it would be amazing but my goal is to perform a clean routine.
"I feel lucky to be a gymnast that's going to Tokyo to compete, it does harbour a lot of importance and I've been lucky to compete there before. I'm absolutely looking forward to returning."
The artistic gymnastics at the Olympics begins on 24 July, with qualification for all of the men’s events.
The pommel horse final is scheduled for 1 August at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
Watch every unmissable moment from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games live on Discovery+ and the Eurosport app.