11 Greek weightlifters caught doping, to miss Olympics

May 3rd, 2008 - 2:41 pm ICT by admin  

Athens, May 3 (DPA) A second doping test on a group of 11 Greek weightlifters who initially tested positive for banned substances was also found to be positive, making the athletes unlikely competitors for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August, say reports. The second test was conducted in a laboratory in Cologne, Germany, and confirmed results first announced April 4, which found almost the entire men’s and women’s national teams to have failed tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Their 60-year-old coach Christos Iacovou was suspended after the the doping allegations were first announced and later handed in his resignation, saying he was leaving the world of weightlifting.

The athletes’ coach blamed the initial test results on a faulty batch of dietary supplements by Chinese drugmaker, Auspure Biotechnology.

The lawyer of 10 of the athletes of the Greek national team said they support Iacovou. One athlete, Vassiliki Kasapi, however, took legal action against the weightlifting federation, saying she was unknowingly being placed at risk by taking the drugs.

The scandal has thrown the Greek weightlifting team’s preparations for the upcoming Beijing Olympics into turmoil.

Reports said the athletes told the investigative committee, set up by the Greek Weightlifting Federation, that they took vitamin supplements and were not aware that they may have contained banned substances.

Iacovou is one of Greece’s most respected coaches, whose team has won five Olympic gold medals along with five silver and two bronze since the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Under International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) anti-doping rules, entire teams can be suspended from international competitions for up to two years if three or more athletes fail doping tests within one year.

The IWF has handed out such bans before, but then changed them into fines. Iran, Russia, Argentina and Kazakhstan, for instance, were allowed to compete at the 2006 worlds after paying a $50,000 fine for each caught athlete (in Iran’s case $450,000 for nine positive tests).

Weightlifting has been plagued by doping over the years, with 42 athletes suspended in 2007 alone, according to the IWF website.

Greece was also involved, with Leonidas Sampanis losing his Olympic 63kg category bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics after a positive test.

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