Newly crowned Olympic judo champion Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo has been provisionally suspended in France by the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) for refusing to take a doping test, a source told AFP on Monday.
Kelmendi made history on Sunday by winning her country’s first ever Olympic medal in their Games debut as she claimed under-52kg glory in the Rio dojo.
But two months ago while training in France, Kelmendi refused to give a urine sample in an unannounced, out-of-competition test sprung by the French agency.
Kelmendi was not the only athlete to refuse the test and did so only after her coach Drito Kuka consulted with the International Judo Federation’s anti-doping officer Andrea Ember, according to French judo magazine l’Esprit du Judo, which claims to have seen the original WhatsApp exchange between the two parties.
The German delegation allegedly also consulted Ember and their athlete, European under-63kg champion Martyna Trajdos, refused to submit to the test.
The surprise test took place on June 16 at Saint-Cyprien in the south west of France during an international training camp involving judoka from several countries.
French athlete Gevrise Emane, a three-time world champion, and American under-78kg Olympic champion Kayla Harrison both submitted to the tests.
According to the transcript of the WhatsApp conversation between Kuka and Ember, the latter said the athletes were not obliged to take the test if the AFLD officer could not provide a document showing she was mandated to test athletes by either the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Kuka’s concern was over whether or not the French agency had the right to test foreign athletes.
“The international (judo) federation told him that she (Kelmendi) had no obligation (to take the test), which is contrary to the position of the French anti-doping agency,” the source told AFP.
The suspension is only applicable in France and the AFLD will rule on the case in September.
Should Kelmendi be found guilty of refusing to take a doping test, she would be suspended by French authorities, putting them in conflict with judo bosses.
The 25-year-old had earlier spoken of her euphoria at winning for Kosovo, which became the 100th country to land an Olympic gold medal.
“We have survived a war. There are still kids who don’t know if their parents are alive, don’t have anything to eat or books to go to school. So the fact of becoming Olympic champion is just huge for all of us,” she said.