Olympic diving champion Ilya Zakharov retires after being suspended for missing drug tests

Russian diver and Olympic gold medalist Ilya Zakharov has announced his retirement from the sport, citing injury as the reason according to an Instagram post. The announcement comes on the same day he was handed an 18-month suspension after missing three drug tests over a 12-month period, Alexei Vlasenko, the president of the Russian Diving Federation, told Russian news agency TASS.

According to TASS, the disqualification begins on Nov. 22 and Zakharov has 21 days to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. With the retirement news, it does not seem like he will be appealing the suspension.

In his post on Instagram, the 28-year-old explained why he missed the tests and insisted he never used illegal substances. 

His retirement message read:

"Today I would like to say that I will retire. And I want to thank all of you for your kind thoughts of me, for your support, my dear fans. I have never used doping... and I will never do it!Due to injury I had two operations and missed doping tests. I am grateful to my family, my nearest and dearest, my friends who are allways with me. Now I have a new stage in my life and I am preparing for it. I am sure I can do good for sport. Thanks a lot. I am always in touch."

The missed tests included one on Oct. 21, 2018, and two earlier this year on Feb. 17 and June 11

In May, Zakharov won a synchronized springboard title at the Russian Championships after having surgery. He did not participate in the world championships in July. 

At the springboard final in the 2012 London Olympics, Zakharov became the first non-Chinese diver to win gold in the event since 1992. He beat China's Qin Kai to do so. That year he also earned the silver in synchro springboard. 

From 2011 to 2017, Zakharov added seven world championships to his resume. 

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