Defending Olympic champion gymnast Oleg Verniaiev is set to miss Tokyo 2020 after receiving a ban following a failed drugs test.
The Ukrainian, who won gold on the parallel bars in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, revealed on Instagram that he had tested positive for meldonium and has received a four-year ban from Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF).
Verniaiev has said that he will appeal the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and has denied wrongdoing.
Rhythmic Gymnastics - Tokyo 2020 - Olympic Highlights
“The main question is how a banned substance got into my body?” wrote Verniaiev in an Instagram post.
“Why did it happen at a time when there were no serious international competitions and there was only light training taking place?”
The 27-year-old also took silver in the individual all-around competition at the last Olympic Games.
He was a surprise omission from the Ukrainian gymnastics team named to travel to Tokyo when it was named last week having been provisionally suspended since December of last year.
The ban levied is backdated to November 2020 and will run for four years, GEF ruled, which could force Verniaiev to miss Paris 2024.
Meldonium is principally used for heart conditions, and is also known as mildronate.
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The drug increases exercise capacity in athletes by increasing blood flow. Former tennis star Maria Sharapova served a 15-month ban after testing positive for the substance in 2016, soon after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added it to their banned substances list.
The standard ban under the World Anti-Doping Code is four years.
Sharapova claimed she had been taking the drug for 10 years due to a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes, while two Russian rowers were removed from their country’s Tokyo 2020 squad last week after positive tests for meldonium.
Verniaiev is set to be one of three male gymnastics gold medal winners who will not defend their title in Tokyo after the retirements of Fabian Hambüchen of Germany and Ri Se-Gwang of North Korea, who have also elected not to send a delegation to the Olympics this year.
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Though Verniaiev has struggled with injury since the 2016 Olympics, the Ukrainian has won a parallel bars medal at all but one of the previous five world championships.
Among the favourites for an all-around medal in Tokyo will be David Belyavskiy of Russia, Lin Chaopan of China and America’s Sam Mikulak, who finished fourth, fifth and seventh in Rio.
Gold medallist Kohei Uchimura and Team GB’s Max Whitlock, who won bronze, will not compete in the event, though both will be at the Olympics.
Whitlock will focus on the pommel horse, an event in which he is the defending champion in, and has described the possibility of another gold as “a dream”.
"I'm the oldest one in the team but I'm still hopefully going to every competition with the potential to win a title and I'm still seeing improvements in terms of what I can do," said Whitlock after being named in Team GB’s travelling party for Tokyo.
"There's more I can learn and there's hopefully no chance of me stopping anytime soon. A title would be a dream - it would be amazing but my goal is to perform a clean routine.
"I feel lucky to be a gymnast that's going to Tokyo to compete, it does harbour a lot of importance and I've been lucky to compete there before. I'm absolutely looking forward to returning."
The artistic gymnastics at the Olympics begins on 24 July, with qualification for all of the men’s events.
The pommel horse final is scheduled for 1 August at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
Watch every unmissable moment from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games live on Discovery+ and the Eurosport app.
Rhythmic Gymnastics - Individual All-Around Final - Tokyo 2020 - Olympic Highlights
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