The following is an excerpt from Athletica, a quarterly publication featuring official news, information, and in-depth articles on the world of international sports. [Article originally published two years ago.]

The Weight of Controversy

It’s been a tumultuous year for Yakov Tvar and, with another scandal already heating up, this might be one obstacle even the “Steel Giant” can’t lift himself out of. Born and raised in the sovereign republic of Galvagrad, Tvar worked his way up from menial jobs living in an impoverished town to becoming a rising star in the international weightlifting scene. After his triumphant victory at the United World Games four years ago, Tvar earned numerous endorsement deals and a hefty performance-based stipend for his gold medal in the weightlifting championship—the first in Galvagrad’s history.

Tvar made less celebratory headlines two years ago, when he was arrested at a nightclub in Tokova, during a heated physical altercation that left a bartender in critical condition. Tvar’s name became newsworthy several months later for his alleged involvement in an underground fight club during an incident which left two competitors paralyzed. The negative publicity led to the loss of Tvar’s profitable endorsement deals, however it didn’t stop the Steel Giant, as the media dubbed him, from competing in this year’s United World Games.

What would have been Tvar’s second gold medal in the weightlifting championship has since been overshadowed by controversy. Despite rigorous drug testing for all UWG athletes, recent accusations have been leveled at Tvar, claiming use of Exilus, a performance-enhancing drug, during the international competition. Due to the nature of Exilus, a so-called “next-gen” drug extremely difficult to detect, there’s a strong possibility standard UWG testing may have failed to discover it in Tvar prior to the competition. Claims of bribery have also emerged, suggesting that the committee in charge of testing athletes may have been compromised, further tainting Tvar’s win. With several investigations now open, and the results looking none too promising for Tvar, some UWG officials have already suggested revoking the athlete’s recent gold medal.

Galvagrad has since announced that they will be withdrawing from all United World Games for the foreseeable future, until the UWG issues both Tvar and the country an official apology for “unfounded and harmful accusations.”

Danger Zone One. Story by Midnight. Art by Tanabata Usagi.