By Martin Quin Pollard
HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) – The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said on Sunday it was trying to resolve the “sensitive issue” of its decision to allow North Korea to fly its flag at the Hangzhou Asian Games despite it being banned over non-compliance with global anti-doping rules.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned the flag at all major sporting events, outside the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in 2021 after deeming that North Korea had failed to implement an effective testing programme.
But the flag has been displayed throughout the 19th Asian Games: at the opening ceremony, in the athletes’ village, and at competitions and medal ceremonies.
WADA said North Korea was still non-compliant with its anti-doping code and the OCA had failed to enforce its sanction.
“We are in touch with them and we are trying to resolve this issue hopefully in the next couple of days we will be able to get through to what WADA wants,” Vinod Kumar Tiwari, OCA acting director general, told a news conference in Hangzhou.
“It’s a very sensitive issue. It’s not very easy to handle, but we are in touch with WADA on a daily basis and hopefully things will be resolved to be mutually acceptable to both parties.”
“North Korea, the DPRK Korea, has also written a letter to them very lately telling them that the borders have opened and they can send the doping control officers for the testing which the WADA has agreed and they will be shortly sending it to the DPRK, to North Korea,” Tiwari added.
North Korea won 11 golds in Hangzhou, including in artistic gymnastics, shooting, wrestling, boxing and six in weightlifting.
It was the first international multi-sport event North Korea attended since the 2018 edition in Jakarta. North Korea closed its borders for nearly four years because of COVID-19.
North Korea was suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until the end of 2022, missing last year’s Beijing Winter Games, after failing to send a team to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; editing by Robert Birsel)