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Games-Asia Olympic body backs North Korea flag at Hangzhou despite WADA ban

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-The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said it was happy for the North Korea flag to keep flying at the Hangzhou Asian Games despite it being banned over the country’s 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 North Korean athletes marched proudly behind the flag at Saturday’s opening ceremony in Hangzhou and it has been displayed at competitions and in the athletes’ village.

Acting OCA President Randhir Singh said Asian Games organisers and North Korea were in discussions with WADA but that the flag was still flying.

“North Korea also has written to WADA as well, explaining their position,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“We are explaining it from our side as well. At present the North Korea flag is flying and we will look into it and see what the future says.

“Let me tell you, our intention is that everyone should participate and everyone should have the opportunity to participate.

“And if there are certain issues that happen through this pandemic and that period, so we should consider that, take it into account.”

WADA said North Korea was still non-compliant with its anti-doping code and the OCA had failed to enforce its sanction.

“As such after the opening ceremony, WADA wrote to the OCA to remind them of their obligations and to inform them that a compliance procedure would be opened against them as appropriate,” the anti-doping body said in a statement.

The Hangzhou Asian Games is the first international multi-sport event North Korea is attending since the 2018 edition in Jakarta.

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.

The Asian Games was originally due to host up to 500 athletes from Russia and Belarus, despite widespread competition bans for the countries’ athletes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

However, the IOC confirmed in the lead-up to Hangzhou that they would not participate due to “logistical” issues.

Singh said the athletes would have “otherwise been most welcome” and left the door open for them to participate at future Asian competitions.

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