István Péni secured a gold medal at the European Shooting Championships in Osijek, Croatia, qualifying him for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. The Hungarian sport shooter faced controversy in the lead up to the event after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, an attempted sabotage presumably by his now former teammate.
The 24-year-old István Péni managed to secure a 251.3 point lead in the 10 m Air Rifle event of this year’s European Shooting Championships. The finals turned into an intense showdown between him and the Israeli Sergy Rikhter.
Péni had been in fourth place after the first five shots, but after the tenth he had progressed to first. Rikhter then regained his lead, and kept it until the last two shots, where his advantage began to wane, until at the last shot there was a difference of five tenths between the two shooters. At this final moment, Péni evened out their scores.
In the shoot-off, Péni shot a 10.7 and Rikhter a 10.3. Thus, the Hungarian was able to defend his European title in ten-meter shooting, but he will need to keep an eye out for his opponent, who put up a very good fight.
In March, Péni tested positive for performance enhancing drugs at the 2021 International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup held in India. There was a strong suspicion that his teammate Péter Sidi had spiked his vitamins, which led ISSF to acquit Péni of the charges. He then won silver in both 50-meter rifle three positions and 10-meter air rifle.
A Controversial Failed Drug Test
ISSF’s anti-doping committee shared its full investigation on the issue, declaring that Péni is innocent and that a sabotage occurred against him. The Hungarian Shooting Federation addressed the issue, and began an investigation on Péter Sidi.
Hungarian sport shooter Péter Sidi obviously, visibility, and illegally entered and was present in István Péni’s hotel room for 45 minutes. Péter Sidi failed to give an explanation to the three questions posed by the president of the Hungarian Shooting Federation: who had authorized him to enter Péni’s room? Who gave him a key to enter? What did he do in his room?”
Péni said that he had not handled the past month well, as he had not only been shocked by the doping violation, but by the hotel security camera footage of his teammate breaking into his room.
There was pressure on me knowing that it’s not easy to get out of a situation like this well, even when I know I’m innocent and a victim who’s been subjected to constant harassment for years.”
Péni and Sidi have not been on good terms ever since Péni and Zalán Pekler stepped out of the 50 meter team finals of the New Delhi World Cup on the basis that their teammate, Sidi, had been using a bipod illegally. The weapon control jury deemed that the use of the bipod was not illegal, but the altercation no doubt soured relations between the Hungarians.
Péni’s victory in Osijek becomes even more impressive when considering that he did not prepare nearly as much as he normally would have, due to being impacted by the controversy. Still, he hopes that he will come out of this complication stronger than before, and make his fans proud at the Tokyo Olympics.
Because of the current circumstances I am past some difficult preparations. This victory is fit for a storybook. At the top of Europe in the finals, gold medal, title protected. In the last four shots I was continuously gaining on my Israeli opponent, and I was confident that I have a chance at victory. I gave it my all at the end. Before the shoot-off there was no doubt in my mind that I would win the European Championship.”
Featured photo illustration by Tamás Kovács/MTI