Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BEIJING MEDALLISTS TEST POSITIVE

Rashid Ramzi
Ramzi gives thanks after his Beijing success

Two Olympic medallists are among six athletes who failed a drugs test after the re-testing of Beijing samples.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said re-testing for the hormone Cera had led to seven positive tests.

Bahrain athlete Rashid Ramzi, who won gold in the 1500m and Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, who won a silver, have both been named by their associations.

And a positive test by German cyclist Stefan Schumacher has been confirmed by his country's cycling federation.

Cera is an advanced version of the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO.

Ramzi, who used to compete for his native Morocco and still trains there, won Bahrain's first ever track and field gold medal in Beijing last August.

He also won the 800m and 1500m races at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has confirmed three athletes have failed tests, although the sport's governing body declined to give any names.

"The IAAF must wait for further details from the IOC before considering any provisional suspension of the athletes and a decision is not expected within the next week.

"Just as the IAAF has already re-analysed its own samples taken prior to Beijing, the IAAF would like to commend the IOC for their efforts in the storage and re-analysis of samples and for their coordination with the IAAF in this process.

"This step shows that athletes who cheat can never be comfortable that they will avoid detection and sends a strong message of deterrence," a statement read.

Britain's Andy Baddeley, who was ninth behind Ramzi in Beijing, told BBC Sport he was surprised an athlete had failed a test at a major event because of the intensive level of drug testing.

But he added: "Although it is bad news for the sport when you find that people are found to be taking drugs, it's good news that people are being caught and it should be the deterrent for other people not to use drugs in the future.

"If people can be caught after the event it's got to be a huge incentive to stop people doing it in the future."

Rebellin, who celebrated his 37th birthday by finishing second behind Spain's Samuel Sanchez in the men's road race, has denied any wrong-doing.

He told Italian newspaper La Stampa: "I don't know what may have happened. It is certainly a mistake. It is impossible that I tested positive."

Schumacher was given a two-year ban earlier this year after testing positive for Cera during the 2008 Tour de France.

He won two time trials during the Tour and held the overall leader's yellow jersey for two days.

British Olympic chiefs believe no members of Team GB are among the six athletes caught out by the IOC.

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has not been contacted by the IOC, which says the athletes in question have been notified through their national Olympic committees.

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
Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC medical commission

BOA chairman Colin Moynihan gave his support to the policy of re-analysing samples when new lab tests become available.

"You need to go back and test samples to deter athletes who think they're cheating the system," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"You need to make them think: 'wait a minute, in a couple of years' time, they will be able to test for that substance and my sample may be tested'."

US Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said the federation had not received notification from the IOC of any adverse findings involving one of their athletes.

"Unless we hear otherwise, we are treating no news as good news," Seibel told the Associated Press.

The IOC tested 948 samples from Beijing after new tests for Cera and insulin became available after the Olympics.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Gordon Farquhar said the offenders "are likely to be competitors from the endurance disciplines of swimming, cycling, rowing and athletics".

Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC medical commission, said: "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.

"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."

Pending any disciplinary action by the IOC, national and international bodies are free to impose provisional suspensions of athletes, the IOC said.

Any athletes found guilty of doping face being disqualified from the Olympics and stripped of any medals.

BBC SPORTS REPORT.

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