Fans back distraught Ratchanok

Fans back distraught Ratchanok

World No.4 Ratchanok Intanon walks off the practice court after a session on June 22. Her plans to play for an Olympic gold medal at Rio are in limbo, awaiting a decision on her drug test. (Reuters photo)
World No.4 Ratchanok Intanon walks off the practice court after a session on June 22. Her plans to play for an Olympic gold medal at Rio are in limbo, awaiting a decision on her drug test. (Reuters photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has sought a probe into reports of Ratchanok Intanon possibly failing a doping test at a recent tournament which have rocked Thailand's hopes for their first ever badminton gold medal at the Olympic Games just 11 days before the draw.

The prime minister said in a statement posted at the official website of the military regime that the absence of Ratchanok would clearly affect the country's chances of vying for a badminton gold medal in Rio.

Ratchanok, the world No.4 and former world champion, was initially reported to have tested positive during the Asia Championships in China in April, with the sample having been sent for a second test at a lab in Japan.

However, it has now been revealed that the test had actually been conducted during the Uber Cup team tournament, also held in China, in May.

The name of the prohibited substance is yet to be disclosed.

The Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) is now waiting for an official announcement from the Malaysia-based Badminton World Federation (BWF), which begins a three-day weekend meeting Friday.

The BAT, which was informed of the test result on Sunday, has been working with the BWF to resolve the issue to pave the way for Ratchanok's participation in the Aug 5-21 Rio Games, said a source from the association.

"With the limited amount of time, they [the BAT] are doing everything they can to get her to play in Rio," he said. "The final line-up must be sent to the International Olympic Committee [IOC] on July 18 [Monday], so everything has to be decided by then."

Gen Prayut has called for an investigation into events which may have led to one of the country's most popular sports stars being dragged into the controversy, said a source from the Government House.

Ratchanok is one of the 52 Thai athletes who will compete at the Rio Games. The draw for the badminton competition will be made on July 26.

The Sport Authority of Thailand (SAT) earlier said that all of their Olympic athletes, including Ratchanok, had passed doping tests conducted in the past two months.

Meanwhile, in a cryptic Instagram post, Ratchanok, who is currently training in Khaoyai, Nakhon Ratchasima, seemed to have hinted at the gravity of the predicament she is facing.

"I'm faded", she captioned a picture of the stars in the night sky which has received scores of messages of support from fans.

Ratchanok reportedly received an injection to treat a knee injury before the China tournament and that could possibly be the reason for her sample testing positive.

If the second test is confirmed as positive, Ratchanok's chances of competing in Rio would be all but over as the Thai star would likely be temporarily suspended pending a full hearing with the BWF during which she would have to try and prove mitigating circumstances.

At the age of 18, Ratchanok became the youngest singles world champion in 2013. She was also the first ever player to win three successive BWF Superseries tournaments in April and subsequently replaced Carolina Marin of Spain as world No.1. Her reign, though, was short-lived as she crashed out in the second round while defending her Asia Championships singles crown and lost her top ranking.

Ratchanok was also the first player to win three straight world junior titles from 2009-2011 and is considered one of the most gifted players of the current generation.

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