Olympics: Sailor Udi Gal fails drug test

Yachting Association chairman believes medal hopeful will avoid Beijing ban.

beijing olympics 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
beijing olympics 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Chairman of the Israel Yachting Association (IYA) Yehuda Mayan is optimistic sailor Udi Gal will be able to compete at the Beijing Olympic Games despite the fact that it was confirmed on Thursday that he has failed a drug test. Dr. Jacques Asharov, head of the Anti-Doping Committee of Israel, notified the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) on Thursday that Gal's 'B sample' was found to be positive just like his 'A sample'. The 29-year-old will now have to face an IYA disciplinary committee which will decide if and how he should be punished. Gal, who is set to compete in the 470 Class sailing competition with partner Gidi Kliger, has claimed that the test returned positive with the banned substance Finasteride because it is one of the ingredients in an anti-balding medication he has been taking. Finasteride is a predominant ingredient in the anti-hair loss drug Propecia and is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list because it can mask use of anabolic steroids. "I'm optimistic that everything will end well and that Gal will get to go to the Olympics and return home with a medal," a wishful Mayan told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "It's not in my hands. Nevertheless, I'm hoping everything will be ok. I believe it will be ok." Mayan, who is in charge of putting together the IYA committee which will judge Gal in the next 10 days, hopes that previous cases in which similar offenses weren't punished with a ban will help one of Israel's top medal prospects escape with a reprimand. "I understand the severity of the offense, but there are precedents in which athletes didn't receive a ban for the exact same offense," Mayan said. "I imagine that Gal's lawyer has checked and found these cases in which the sportsman escaped with a rebuke. "The disciplinary committee will have to determine if this is a case of negligence or not. The committee's decision will then be sent to the International Sailing Federation, which needs to accept it. "We'll have to wait and see what they have to say. I think that in the last 100 years there was one case in which a sailor failed a drug test and even then he ended up getting away with it." Gal and Kliger have been two of Israel's most successful athletes in recent years. The duo claimed silver medals at the European Championships in 2001 and 2005 and won bronze medals at the World Championships in the last three years. Only last Saturday, the team won a bronze medal at the European Championships, their final competition ahead of the Olympics. OCI Secretary General Efraim Zinger tried to remain positive on Thursday, despite the fact that Israel may end being without one of its best medal hopes in China. "I'm waiting patiently for the end of the procedure, hoping that it will end positively and that we will see Udi and Gidi in Beijing," Zinger told the Post. "The entire process is under the responsibility of the IYA and we at the OCI will play a passive role from here onwards and wait for updates." Despite his optimism, Mayan couldn't hide his frustration with the whole situation. "It's so frustrating that you invest so much work and everything can come to an end because of something which is completely out of your control," he said. Sela's Olympic hopes suffer further blow Despite meeting the International Olympic Committee's criteria, Dudi Sela will likely not get the chance to take part at the Beijing Games after the OCI's appeals committee turned down his plea on Thursday. Israel's No. 1 tennis player, who is ranked 64th in the world, was left out of the OCI's preliminary list of athletes going to China last week after failing to meet its criteria of being ranked among the world's top-50. The Israel Tennis Association appealed the decision, but the appeals committee chose to uphold the original ruling, meaning Sela will only be part of the delegation should he record an outstanding result at next week's Wimbledon tournament.