KUALA LUMPUR: The first two months were the toughest for Lee Chong Wei.
“Usually, I only take a few days’ break and that too during the Chinese New Year – that’s the most time I’ve stayed away from badminton.
“But when I heard about my doping issue for the first time, I did not hold the racquet for three weeks ... can you imagine how it must have felt?” recalled Chong Wei on the eve of his hearing.
“I was completely devastated. I didn’t know what to do or think.
A more calm and collected Chong Wei is ready to face Badminton World Federation (BWF)’s three-member independent panel in Amsterdam to clear his name and escape a two-year ban.
The BWF first informed Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) on Oct 2 last year that Chong Wei had failed a dope test during the World Championships at Copenhagen in August.
His urine was found with traces of the banned substance dexamethasone.
Chong Wei said that it took a lot of courage to face the truth and move on.
“I did not cheat but I couldn’t blame anyone either. I told myself that I needed to pull myself together. I then started training daily ... without fail,” said a fitter-looking Chong Wei.
“The six months of solid training, while waiting for my hearing, has certainly helped me. Just look at my muscles now ..,” he said in a jest.
Chong Wei said he was calmer ahead of the hearing because “of all the support I have received over the months”.
“I wasn’t embarrassed to walk on the street because I know I did nothing wrong. My fans did not hurl insults but were emphatic and encouraged me,” he said.
“A thorough investigation has also been carried out by my lawyer Mike Morgan and I’m pleased with that.
“My family, especially my wife Wong Mew Choo, has been there and all my friends and fans have rallied behind me.
“BAM have been supportive too and even Youth and Sports Minister Khairy (Jamaluddin) has been by my side.”
Whatever decision is made Saturday by the BWF hearing panel, the 32-year-old Chong Wei admitted that it would not be easy to make a comeback.
“I’m hoping to be immediately cleared to play after the hearing. If that happens, I will go all out to set a few things right,” said world No. 16 Chong Wei.
“I need to get my world ranking in order again. I want to get the tournament feel again ... winning is secondary ... I just want to play again.”
He said that the whole incident had taught him many things – but the one that he will remember the most “is not to take anything for granted”.
“There will always be ups and downs in life. What’s important is how you pick yourself up – no matter what happens,” said Chong Wei.
“I learnt that some times, good friends leave you when you’re in trouble. Some stick with you no matter what. I’ve learnt to appreciate people better.
“I just hope that this journey will end well. If cleared, it will surely give me that extra motivation and drive to go all the way to do well at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” he added.
by Rajes Paul - The Star