National goalkeeper S. Kumar heaved a sigh of relief following the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) decision not to extend his six-month doping suspension, which he served out on April 15. NSTP/LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR

KUALA LUMPUR: National goalkeeper S. Kumar heaved a sigh of relief following the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) decision not to extend his six-month doping suspension, which he served out on April 15.

The keeper tested positive for sibutramine, an appetite suppressant which is banned by the World Anti Doping Agency, at the Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh last October.

Kumar, 39, said he was considering retirement as an option had FIH extended his suspension.

“Of course, I had thought of it (retiring) as when it comes to doping cases, things are usually strict. There have been cases where athletes were suspended for more than 18 months.

“I feared the worse and I felt that I would never play again. I thought about getting involved in coaching.

“But I looked at things positively after some time as whenever I contacted FIH, they would give me a positive feedback,” said Kumar on Monday in Bukit Jalil.

Kumar’s return is a huge boost for Malaysia ahead of the Indonesia Asian Games and the World Cup in India as options in Hafizuddin Othman and Hairi Abd Rahman are not good enough for major competitions.

The duo were tested in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Kumar, however, admitted that he would need to regain fitness and work on other aspects as he looks to earn a spot in Stephen Van Huizen’s team.

“I need to work harder to regain my touches. It has been four months since I last trained with the national team,” he added.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal is glad that Kumar is back in the frame for national duty.

“Kumar can now rejoin the national team for centralised training.

“However, he has to impress the coaches and regain his No 1 spot. Hafizuddin and Hairi were performing well during Kumar’s absence, so he needs to work hard,” said Subahan.

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