World Cup Doping Scandal: Two North Korean Players Come Up Positive

The entire North Korean women's football team was subjected to an unprecedented doping test after two players tested positive ahead of a World Cup game this week. By not asking for a second sample test the team has effectively admitted to doping, experts say.

North Korean players leave the pitch after a draw with Colombia on Wednesday. Zoom
AP

North Korean players leave the pitch after a draw with Colombia on Wednesday.

Two North Korean defenders were suspended from playing in the Women's World Cup on Wednesday after testing positive for doping following their team's first two group games, officials with organizer FIFA said.

"This is a steroid that is naturally produced in the body, but was taken externally," Detlef Thieme, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratory in Kreischa, Germany, which has been conducting screens on players in coordination with FIFA, said on Thursday.

Starting defenders Song Jong Sun and Jong Pok Sim were struck from the starting line-up just ahead of their team's match against Colombia, which ended with a 0-0 draw, eliminating North Korea from the tournament.

But after the two players tested positive for doping in the "A" sample, the team failed to request a "B" sample within the 12-hour deadline, a move that experts say amounts to an admission of guilt. Instead FIFA requested a second sample, subjecting all 19 players to urine tests after the Colombia match.

"Where more than one member of a team has been notified of an anti-doping rule violation ... the ruling body for the competition shall conduct appropriate target testing of the team during the competition period," a FIFA official told news agency AP, citing its regulations.

Meanwhile, FIFA says it plans to publish the results of the second test, though the complex analysis will take up to 10 days for completion.

North Korean System Under Fire

"This is a unique event at the World Cup, but if there are two positive samples in a team it means we have to investigate," Dr. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer, told the news agency AFP. "This is a very sad day."

Neither the North Korean trainers nor the country's football association issued a statement about the matter. After being eliminated from the tournament Wednesday without having scored a single goal, the team flew out of Düsseldorf on Thursday at 6:30 a.m., a World Cup organizing committee spokesman told AP.

Theo Zwanziger, who heads the German Football Association (DFB), issued sharp criticism of North Korea's communist leaders, telling German news agency DAPD that the incident had "underlined an impression of an inhumane system" in which athletes are driven to win "by any means possible."

But the positive tests also reflect positively on FIFA's efforts to fight doping, he said.

"This incident changes nothing in the DFB's fundamental stance, which is that a political system like North Korea can also be broken down bit by bit through sports," he said. "In this regard we have certainly moved a step forward with our efforts before and during the World Cup."

North Korea's positive tests were the second such incident of the tournament, which is taking place in Germany this year. On June 25, Colombian goalkeeper Yineth Varon was suspended after she failed a pre-tournament screening.

kla, with wires

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