A mistake made by a medical professional, may have further consequences for a Samoan woman weightlifter who has been suspended pending an investigation.
The President and Coach of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork says that he stands firm in his belief that his team has done nothing wrong.
As one of Samoa’s top weightlifters, Ms Iuniarra Sipaia was recently suspended by the International Weightlifting Federation (I.W.F.) for using triamcinolone acetonide.
This drug is basically used to treat joints and skin diseases.
“The drug has nothing to do with performance-enhancing drugs, or steroids,” said Tuaopepe and he pointed out that a decision has yet to come down from the International Weightlifting Federation about the drug injected into Ms Sipaia.
“First thing is, there is no official decision from the investigation yet.
“We are still waiting for the official response and notification.
“But now, I have seen the suspension is already out in the papers while we are still putting our case and the investigation is not completed.
“Iuniarra’s positive result is not from a performance-enhancing drug; the injection was used for her joints.”
Tuaopepe said the story began when Ms Sipaia was having a problem with her knee before their tournament in Australia earlier this year.
“We went to Dr. Tala, the head of Orthopedics at the national hospital because she was injured.
Dr. Tala suggested that her knee be injected with a cortisone injection, which he said was still allowed within the world’s drug testing list.
“Dr. Tala proceeded to give her the injection and I have his letter which has been sent to the International Weightlifting Federation. We are still fighting and protesting about the case.
“So Ms. Sipaia was injected by Dr. Tala in the two weeks before we went to a tournament in March.
Tuaopepe said he was therefore surprised to receive notification saying that Ms Sipaia had tested positive for a banned drug.
“We were first notified by the International Weightlifting Federation about the matter at the beginning of last month.
“I went back to Dr. Tala and he searched on his list, and he still claimed he was right.
However during a further check, it was discovered he had been working from an outdated 2014 list.
“This new drug that was injected into Ms. Sipaia was disallowed by the International Weightlifting Federation in 2016.
Tuaopepe said that this is where the problem lay.
“We are still fighting the case and nothing has been made official up to now.
“However it’s in your newspaper, but I have been waiting for an official response on the ,matter from the International Weightlifting Federation before giving out a statement.
“Because to us, we believe we did not do anything wrong. At the moment, for me and my team, it is really a distraction and a waste of our time. It is also something that is really not our fault.”
“The investigation is underway and we have also submitted our letter and reports.
Tuaopepe said in the meantime, he is disappointed with the lack of awareness of these sorts of problems in Samoa.
He is also saddened by our local doctors for letting this silly mistake happen.
“We are very unhappy. We went to our doctors to seek their advice and they reassured us that all was ok.
“We are unhappy because there is not enough awareness here in Samoa; it’s like doing things in the dark with no lights on for all the sports.
“This is just a basic thing that no one should have tested positive for, and I am very disappointed.”
Tuaopepe also said that he is sad seeing one of his athletes in this situation.
He said, Ms. Sipaia is one of Samoa’s finest weightlifters and it is sad that a doctor’s silly error may cost her, her career.
“Iuniarra is one of our top athletes that we have for the upcoming Commonwealth Games next year, and we are hoping for gold from her even though she will be competing with a male contender from New Zealand, a transgender lifter.
As I said, we are very unhappy about what is happening and I can’t really come out and say much more right now because the final response is yet to come out.
“We are still filing our protest because the issue with Iuniarra is not about her or us cheating.
“The I.W.F. would be right to punish her if she had tested positive for using steroids, but this was an anti inflammatory injection which was under a new law that we were genuinely unaware had been added to their banned list.”