Malaysian shot put Paralympian Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli has been stripped of his gold medal after his Ukrainian competitors, who initially finished second and third, complained that Ziyad was three minutes late to the event, the BBC reported.
Ziyad had shattered his Paralympic record of 16.84m, a feat that won him the gold medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and his world record of 17.29m, by throwing a distance of 17.94m in the Tokyo Paralympics, according to Bernama.
However, his initial achievement in the F20 (intellectual disabilities) shot put event was scrubbed off hours later, after the Ukrainian team lodged a complaint against Ziyad and two other competitors for allegedly arriving late to the event.
Ziyad is currently classified as "DNS" for the event, meaning "Did Not Start".
As a result, Ukrainians Maksym Koval and Yarovyi Oleksandr ascended up a rank and are currently the gold medallist and silver medallist respectively.
The Malaysian representatives have reportedly protested against the ruling and failed in their first attempt, but their chef de mission (CDM) to the Paralympics have vowed to pursue the matter.
Ziyad apologises to Malaysians
Ziyad appeared a shattered man, as he posted an apology to Malaysians after receiving the news, and thanked them for their support.
Messages of support poured into the Paralympian's social media page, with netizens protesting the "unfair" disqualification and offering words of encouragement to Ziyad.
Malaysia's Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin also chimed in, commenting: “There's no need to apologise Yad (short for Ziyad), the results were unfair. You're the best in the world and you're outstanding, keep doing what you're doing".
Malaysia's king took to Facebook to say that he was proud of the athlete's achievement, and consoled him saying he has "given his best to the country".
"I hope that the spirit displayed by Zayid can be an example for all Malaysians," the king added.
In his subsequent post, Ziyad seems to have regained his strength, as he said he will "rise again", and thanked netizens for their "words of encouragement".
Many Malaysian netizens also voiced out their anger at the International Paralympics Committee's (IPC) decision to disqualify Ziyad, with the hashtag "Ziyad was robbed" trending on Twitter.
Questions were raised as to why the defending champion was allowed to compete in the first place, and blasted the Ukrainian representatives for filing the complaint only after Ziyad appeared to have broke the world record and clinched the gold medal.
Why and how was Ziyad disqualified?
According to reports from Bernama, Ziyad was disqualified after Ukrainian representatives lodged a complaint against him and two other athletes from Australia and Ecuador, and all three were later classified as DNS for the event.
Speaking to the Associated Press (AP), IPC spokesman Craig Spence said Ziyad and the other two athletes "may have had a logical reason for being late", which was why they were allowed to compete in the first place.
A statement released by the World Para Athletics (WPA), the governing body for the sport, stated that the referee later determined that there was no "justifiable reason" for the Malaysian Paralympian to appear late, hence classifying him as DNS for the event.
Spence also reportedly mentioned that a reason given by the athletes involved was that they “didn’t hear the announcement", or it was in a language that they did not understand.
Malaysian representatives filed an appeal over the outcome, but have since failed to overturn the decision.
However, the Malaysian CDM has decided to throw their support behind Ziyad, and will write up appeals to the IPC and the WPA, a move that can only be done after the Tokyo Paralympics, reported Bernama.
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Top image via @almondf1wrc/Twitter & @ziyadzolkefli/Instagram