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OUR thoughts and heart-felt prayers are with national athlete Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, after his moment of glory in the men’s shot put F20 final at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 was snatched away from him.

He broke the world record twice. However, due to the protest lodged by Ukraine with the technical committee, Muhammad Ziyad was disqualified for supposedly being late to enter the call room.

The World Para Athletics (WPA) rejected Ziyad’s appeal on the basis that he violated the World Para Athletics Rule 5.5, which states that an athlete that is not present in the Call Room at the stipulated time will not be allowed to participate, and will be shown in the results as DNS (did not start). 

Rule 5.5 is reproduced as follows:

“Failure to Report to the Call Room(s)

Except as provided below, an athlete shall be excluded from participation in any event in which he is not present in the Call Room(s) at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule. He shall be shown in the results as DNS. The relevant Referee will decide on this (including whether the athlete may compete under protest if a decision cannot be made immediately) and the corresponding reference must be made in the official results.

Justifiable reasons (e.g. factors independent of the athlete’s own actions, such as problems with the official transport system or an error in the published Call Room schedule) may, after confirmation, be accepted by the Referee and the athlete may then be allowed to take part.”

I am no sports law expert, but a reading of the above rule informs me that the referee has the discretion to allow the athlete to compete under protest, or to allow the athlete to take part if there are “justifiable reasons”.

Now in Ziyad’s case, if he was “not present in the Call Room at the relevant time as published in the Call Room schedule”, then he should have been prevented from participating in the event.

However, he competed, and broke the world record – not once, but twice.

Based on the above rule, Ziyad could also have competed under protest - did Ukraine protest at this point? Or could the referee have accepted his reasons for being late?

Under these circumstances, I believe that Ziyad’s gold and glory have been wrongly snatched away from him. – September 1, 2021.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.