SYDNEY: Australian athlete Peter Bol, who finished fourth in the 800 metres at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance, Athletics Australia said on Friday. The middle distance runner returned an adverse finding for synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) in an out-of-competition urine test last October and was suspended on Jan. 10 after the approval of Sports Integrity Australia. Bol protested his innocence in a statement on his Twitter feed on Friday and said he would be exercising his right to have the backup “B” sample tested. “It is critically important to convey with the strongest conviction that I am innocent and have not taken this substance as I am accused,” the 28-year-old wrote. “To be clear I have NEVER in my life purchased, researched, possessed, administered or used synthetic EPO or any other prohibited substance.” EPO increases red blood cell mass, which allows the body to transport more oxygen to muscles and therefore increase stamina and performance. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, Bol faces a ban of up to four years if he is found guilty of using a banned substance.