Poor Iuniarra Sipaia.
First she was denied a gold medal when she competed against a transgender lifter and now she has been suspended for testing positive for a banned substance through no fault of her own. What next?
Today, she has every reason to be downcast.
Who wouldn’t be in those circumstances?
From her viewpoint, it’s almost like the world is conspiring against her. If it’s not one thing it’s another.
The latest blow though is a lot more serious because her name has been dragged through the mud, having it associated with drugs and sports cheats.
Which is far from the truth, according to her and her Coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork.
During her first media interview since this story surfaced last year, Ms. Sipaia doesn’t hold back. You get the feeling she is desperate and even more alarming, depressed.
“I feel insecure,” she said. “I’m ashamed to walk on the road or be seen by people because I feel that they might talk about me when they see me.
“I’m scared to even go out of the house now, so all I do, I sit at home, turn on the television and watch TV the whole day.
“I’m depressed because of what happened and I don’t know what to do.”
So what happened?
Well it sounds quite simple.
The young woman weightlifter had a sore knee, as it happens from time to time if you are an athlete, and she was referred to the doctor.
“It was injected by Dr. Tala who clearly said this was not a banned substance and that he had used it on Ele, Mary and other lifters before,” she explained.
“But then when we were in Australia, I was shocked when I was told of the news. I didn’t know what to do and it felt like someone just walked up to me and stabbed me in the heart.”
Dr. Tala she is referring to is Dr. Tala Ta’avao, who is a very well respected medical professional in Samoa. It would certainly be interesting to hear what he has to say.
From what we’ve been told, Ms. Sipaia was administered a Cortisone injection. The shot can be used to treat inflammation of small areas of the body, such as inflammation of a specific joint or tendon.
“The drug has nothing to do with performance-enhancing drugs, or steroids,” said Tuaopepe. “Iuniarra’s positive result is not from a performance-enhancing drug; the injection was used for her joints.”
Come to think of it, could it be that this positive test is a conspiracy and perhaps pay back for Samoa kicking a fuss about the kiwi transgender athlete last year? We say this because at the time, Tuaopepe and Ms. Sipaia were quite outspoken about the issue when the Samoan woman was denied a gold medal during the Australian Open Weightlifting Championships.
These controversies have a funny way of growing new legs and knowing how some people operate, could this be their way of getting back at this poor young Samoan athlete?
Now if what she and Tuaopepe are saying is true, if this similar medication was used on Ele Opeloge, Mary Opeloge and other weightlifters and yet they were not picked up, why has it suddenly become an issue?
We cannot ignore the story of Ms. Sipaia. She doesn’t come across as the kind of athlete who would resort to cheating to earn her way to the podium. Which means there has got to be some justice in this world for a hardworking athlete whose efforts and dreams have been discounted and shattered by something completely beyond her control.
We wouldn’t be saying any of this if Ms. Sipaia was caught taking steroids or any of those performance enhancing substances. That would be a different story.
But we are thinking out loud here because she deserves better. She deserves to have her name cleared. And if the medical professional who administered the treatment did not know that this has now been banned, then somebody somewhere did not issue a warning about it.
Folks, this is Samoa, not Russia or any of those drugs and sports enhancing supplements countries. No doctor in this country would knowingly do something that would cause so much pain and embarrassment to a hardworking athlete.
“It’s just unreal because one moment I was this famous lifter who was so proud of her achievements and then the next thing you know, your name is all over social media because you were accused of using a banned substance,” Ms. Sipaia said.
“My family is trying to sort out my stuff so that I can go overseas and start fresh, but if I do go, then people will think I’m running away so I’m stuck in between.
“It’s so hard and I feel useless because the sport was my life. I worked so hard to get to where I am right now and I will never use any illegal stuff to make my way up.
“I’m innocent and God knows I am, this is my life and the team is my family, I will never do anything stupid that will ruin the name of the sport that has given me so much in life.
“I hope and pray that the Lord will reveal the truth about this matter and clear my name so that I can go back and work hard.”
We hear you loud and clear Ms. Sipaia. That is our prayer too. In the meantime, you continue to stay strong and believe that the truth will eventually emerge. Soon.
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!