Six athletes fail Olympic doping tests in retests

April 29th, 2009 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

By John Bagratuni
Lausanne/Stuttgart, April 29 (DPA) Six athletes have tested positive for the latest generation of the blood booster EPO at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said after retesting of drug samples was completed.

The IOC said in a statement Tuesday that the six athletes submitted seven positive samples for the substance known as CERA.

The IOC did not identify the athletes but their national Olympic Committees have been informed of the adverse findings to set up the necessary proceedings.

Italy’s Olympic Committee said on its website that one of its male athletes was among the suspects. News reports in the country said that cycling road race silver medallist Davide Rebellin was the athlete.

The IOC also narrowed down the suspects when it said that the tests “focused primarily on endurance events in cycling, rowing, swimming and athletics.”

If the athletes are found guilty they face disqualification from their event and will lose medals if they made the podium. Under new IOC rules they will also not be able to take part at the 2012 Games in London.

The IOC said it conducted retests of 948 samples for CERA (847) and insulin (101) from the 4,770 drug tests carried out before and during the August 8-24 Games in Beijing.

The retests were made possible after reliable test methods to detect CERA and insulin were introduced last autumn.

“The further analysis of the Beijing samples that we conducted should send a clear message that cheats can never assume that they have avoided detection,” said IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist.

“The vast majority of athletes do not seek an unfair advantage. We intend to do all we can to ensure that they have a fair environment for competition.”

The IOC stores Olympic doping test samples for eight years and conducts retests if new test methods have been developed in that period. Under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), athletes face sanctions over this whole period for an offence.

Nine athletes and six horses failed doping tests at the Games and 40 athletes before.

Retests for CERA and other substances were also carried out in other sports, with several riders caught using CERA at retests of the 2008 Tour de France cycling race.

They included the original third-place finisher Bernhard Kohl of Austria and German Stefan Schumacher, both of the Gerolsteiner team Rebellin also rode for 2002-2008.

WADA welcomed the retesting by the IOC and in general in a statement Tuesday.

“WADA commends the IOC, once again, for its approach. Retesting of samples as science advances is a powerful weapon in the fight against doping in sport, as shown in a number of cases at the 2008 Tour de France,” said the WADA.

WADA president John Fahey said: “We suggest that athletes who may be tempted to cheat keep this reality in mind. We believe that retrospective testing serves as a strong deterrent.”

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