The World Anti-Doping Agency warned the Olympic Council of Asia of “consequences” on Friday for allowing the North Korean flag to be repeatedly flown at the Asian Games, saying they were treating it “extremely seriously”.
WADA declared North Korea’s national anti-doping body “non-compliant” in 2021 and imposed sanctions that remain today.
They include not being able to fly its flag at any regional, continental or world sports event, excluding the Olympics and Paralympics.
Despite this North Korea carried the flag at the Asian Games opening ceremony and it has been routinely hoisted in Hangzhou when their athletes won medals.
OCA chief Raja Randhir Singh last week defended allowing the North Korean flag to be flown, saying the governing body of sport in Asia had written to WADA “explaining their position”.
In a statement to AFP, WADA said the OCA had breached its obligations as a signatory to its anti-doping code.
“WADA takes this matter extremely seriously and has written to the OCA on several occasions before and after the opening ceremony of the Games, explaining in clear terms the possible consequences that could arise for the OCA if this matter is ignored,” it said.
“WADA is disappointed that the OCA has to date not taken steps to comply with the terms of the DPRK’s non-compliance,” it added, using an acronym for North Korea.
“WADA will follow due process to ensure that the appropriate consequences are imposed for the OCA’s refusal to meet its signatory obligations.”
There are a range of punishments WADA could impose on the Kuwait-based OCA.
They include having International Olympic Committee (IOC) funding withdrawn, OCA events losing their status as qualifying events for the Olympic or Paralympic Games and the imposition of fines.
OCA declined to comment when approached by AFP.
The Montreal-based WADA sanctioned North Korea while its already tight borders were shut following the outbreak of Covid, which prevented international testing authorities from being able to enter.
North Korea recently began slowly reopening and WADA said it had started to allow them back in to collect samples.
“However, the broader political status of the country means verification and quality control activities are not straightforward,” it added.
“WADA will continue to work to strengthen the anti-doping system in DPRK in order to protect all athletes.”
Despite its four-year isolation from the global sporting arena, North Korea has produced some eye-opening results on its return, notably in weightlifting, where its competitors have smashed six world records.
Several rival lifters said they were “surprised” at the results.
North Korea’s team manager Jang Song Nam put it all down to “hard work”.
“We have not been able to compete in international weightlifting, but we have had a lot of competitions at home and that is no less a standard,” he said.
No North Korean weightlifters will participate in next year’s Paris Olympics because they failed to take part in mandatory qualifying events earlier this year.
The International Weightlifting Federation said all athletes in the sport had been tested at least once at the Hangzhou Games.
While the IWF does not hold jurisdiction over the Asian Games, it does have responsibility for verifying athlete whereabouts submissions under anti-doping rules.
That rule required information to be provided for a minimum of three months before any competition.
Two North Koreans failed to comply and were barred, the IWF said.