Saturday, September 25, 2021

Rules are rules, ex-sports council head says on athlete’s disqualification

Zolkples Embong says the whole contingent should take responsibility for the incident which saw national champion Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli lose out on a gold medal.

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It is near impossible for the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) to change the outcome of the F20 shot-put (learning impairment) event at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which saw national champion Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli “robbed” of the gold medal, according to former National Sports Council (MSN) director-general Zolkples Embong.

He said it would be difficult for the IPC to overturn the decision, in addition to the committee having to respect the rules of World Para Athletics (WPA).

“Rules are rules. Rules and laws are made to be obeyed and not to be broken,” he told Bernama.

“Would they (IPC and WPA) bend the rules just to accommodate Malaysia’s case? In the first place why didn’t we follow the rules set?” added Zolkples, who was also Malaysia’s chef de mission to the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Regarding the cancellation of the gold medal won by Ziyad in Tokyo, he said the national contingent as well as Malaysians should not blame the Ukrainian team as they had the right to protest.

“The whole contingent – from the CDM (chef de mission) to the secretariat, team managers and coaches – they all have to take responsibility. This is negligence to me, an unacceptable negligence. They should take care of the athletes, Ziyad should not be blamed,” he added.

Ziyad was denied the gold medal in the men’s F20 shot put event on Tuesday despite also setting a new world record for the event by throwing a distance of 17.94m.

Ukraine lodged a protest with the technical committee, which then disqualified Ziyad and two others – Jordi Patricio Congo Villalba of Ecuador and Australia’s Todd Hodgets – for supposedly being late to enter the call room.

All three were classified as did not start (DNS).

Ukraine’s Maksym Koval was announced as the gold medallist with a throw of 17.34m, breaking Ziyad’s world record of 17.29m that he had set in London.

Another Ukrainian, Oleksandr Yarovyi, took silver with a throw of 17.30m while Greece’s Efstratios Nikolaidis (15.93m) settled for bronze.

Yesterday, the WPA rejected Malaysia’s appeal regarding the decision although the Organising Committee of the Tokyo Paralympics said that all protests and follow-up appeals can be made in writing to the IPC and WPA once the Games are over.

WPA said the decision was based on World Para Athletics Rule 5.5 – failure to report to the call room – which states that in the case that athletes are not present in the call room at the relevant time as published in the call room schedule, they will be shown in the results as DNS.

It is understood that during the incident at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, rain and congested areas with athletes competing in other events saw Ziyad along with the athletes from Ecuador and Australia barred from entering the call room, allegedly because they were a few minutes late to report in.

However, the trio were allowed to compete under protest.

Meanwhile, Zolkples hoped the incident would serve as a lesson to every national contingent official so as not to repeat the same mistake in the future.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Paralympics or the Olympics, this is a lesson not to take things like this lightly. It’s not difficult to carry out tasks, go with the team instead of having fun.

“This is not a competition at the level of a school or Sukma (Malaysian Games). The Paralympic Games is the highest platform – an incident like this should never have happened,” he said.

He said when he was CDM to the 2010 Asian Games and the London Paralympic Games, he had instructed the escort officials to ensure that the athletes were at the competition venue two hours before their events started as early preparation.

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