A female weightlifter, who has been suspended after she tested positive for taking a banned substance, has finally broken her silence about the ordeal.
Iuniarra Sipaia of Vaoala is awaiting the result of an investigation conducted by the International Weightlifting Federation (I.W.F.) for using triamcinolone acetonide.
Speaking to the media for the first time yesterday, Ms. Sipaia told the Samoa Observer she hasn’t done anything wrong.
“I’m innocent and I had never nor intend to take any drugs,” she said.
“This is a very sad thing and it had to happen now when the South Pacific Games is just next year.
“I had all these goals and dreams that I had set for myself come next year, but now it’s all gone down the drain.
“I have been affected emotionally, physically and mentally by this because this substance that I was injected with was supposed to help with the pain I had felt on my knees."
“It was injected by Dr. Tala who clearly said this was not a banned substance and that he had used it on Ele, Mary and other lifters before.
“But then when we were in Australia, I was shocked when I was told of the news.
“I didn’t know what to do and it felt like someone just walked up to me and stabbed me in the heart.
“I had so many negative thoughts that rushed through my mind because this sport is my life.
“I have so many good memories in this sport and I managed to grow up not only physically, but also mentally in this sport."
“And then comes the news of being suspended, it is just a straight up gunshot to my head.”
The 24-year-old also said the news did not only embarrass her, but it cost her a scholarship offered by the International Weightlifting Federation.
“It was during the time when we came back from the Commonwealth Games and the Oceania Championships that I was told of the good news,” said Ms. Sipaia.
“So I was offered a scholarship by the International Weightlifting Federation to fully fund my training leading up to the Olympic Games.
“The scholarship includes a weekly allowance, training equipment and if I go to any tournament, it also helps out with airfares and all that."
“I was very happy because I never expected this kind of blessings from the international federation and such scholarship they only offered to high ranking lifters."
“A week later and then this issue arose and because of this, my scholarship has been cancelled, hence why I said it has affected me immensely."
“Now I've got nothing, no career, no life and no scholarship to help out my family.”
Ms. Sipaia said she felt embarrassed to even walk on the road.
“I feel insecure,” she said.“ I’m ashamed to walk on the road or be seen by people because I feel that they might talk about me when they see me.
“I’m scared to even go out of the house now, so all I do is sit at home, turn on the television and watch TV the whole day.
“I’m depressed because of what happened and I don’t know what to do.
“It’s just unreal because one moment I was this famous lifter who was so proud of her achievements and then the next thing you know, your name is all over social media because you were accused of using a banned substance.
“My family is trying to sort out my stuff so that I can go overseas and start afresh, but if I do go, then people will think I’m running away so I’m stuck in between."
“It’s so hard and I feel useless because the sport was my life."
“I worked so hard to get to where I am right now and I will never use any illegal stuff to make my way up."
“I’m innocent and God knows I am, this is my life and the team is my family, I will never do anything stupid that will ruin the name of the sport that has given me so much in life."
“I came to the sport when I was just 14 years old, and now I am 24, and I am still here and that’s how much this sport means to me."
“I hope and pray that the Lord will reveal the truth about this matter and clear my name so that I can go back and work hard."
Repeated attempts to get a comment from Dr. Tala Ta'avao were unsuccessful.