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Edwin Tan looking better than before his two-year ban

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The loudest cheers at the national bodybuilding championships yesterday were reserved for Edwin Tan, who returned from a two-year ban after testing positive for banned anabolic steroids.

His victory in the lightweight category underscores his feeling that he is in his best shape ever. Indeed, he even received approving wolf whistles during the free-pose round at Kallang Theatre.

Yet, after his ban was lifted last August, Tan was unsure about returning as he was concerned about how his peers would view him.

Said the 31-year-old: 'People still remember that I had been banned, and I was nervous about facing the crowd. I was worried that they might think of me as a drug cheat.

'But nobody laughed at me. My family and friends encouraged me. I am glad I came back.'

The lubricant-oil salesman had endured a nightmare of blunders that led to his suspension in August 2000.

He had bought body supplements from the United States without knowing that they contained the banned substances.

After failing a random out-of-competition test and landing the ban, Tan decided to make full use of this setback.

He said: 'I wanted to use the two-year break to improve my physique.

'Since I didn't need to peak for any competitions, I could build up my muscles patiently.'

Singapore Bodybuilders' Federation president Paul Chua finds Tan a more humble person since his return from suspension.

He said: 'He is more ready to admit his mistakes now, and he wants to prove that he is even better than before.

'He will be a shoo-in for the South-east Asia Games squad if he keeps up this fantastic physique.'

Tan will join 15 other bodybuilders to form the SEA Games training squad.

Selected by the SBBF from this competition, the final eight will participate in Vietnam from Dec 5 to 13.

Most of the medallists in last September's Asian Games came out tops yesterday.

Abdul Halim Haron, who won the lightweight gold in Busan, was first again - this time, in the welterweight category.

The other gold medallist, welterweight Simon Chua, has been recuperating from a lower-back injury since March.

Ibrahim Sihat and Mohammed Ismail - both Asiad silver medallists - clinched the golds in the bantamweight and middleweight categories respectively.

However, bronze medallist Amir Zainal was third in the lightweight division.

The flyweight gold was retained by 45-year-old Ng Han Cheng, a late bloomer who joined the competition only two years ago.

In the junior Open category, Singapore Polytechnic student Jakson Quek beat favourite Mohammad Sophian Jasni to win the above-70kg division.

But Sophian was still upbeat, saying: 'No worries, I still can come back next year.'

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