Doping allegations surface post Beijing

LONDON – The IOC’s pursuit of drug cheats from the Beijing Olympics paid off yesterday with confirmation that six athletes – including two medalists – turned up positive for a new blood-boosting substance in retests of samples from last year’s games. The International Olympic Committee said a total of seven positive tests involving six athletes came back positive for CERA, an advanced version of the endurance-enhancing hormone EPO. A person familiar with the test results told The Associated Press the tests nabbed three track and field athletes, two cyclists and one weightlifter. The IOC did not name the athletes or sports involved, saying it was notifying the athletes through their national Olympic committees. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the names haven’t been released by the IOC, said one of the track and field athletes was a male gold medalist. The other medalist was in cycling. The Italian Olympic Committee said one of the six was an Italian athlete, though it declined to name him. The Italian news agency ANSA identified him as cyclist Davide Rebellin, silver medalist in the road race. U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said the federation hadn’t received notification from the IOC of any adverse findings involving a U.S. athlete. The IOC reanalyzed a total of 948 samples from Beijing after new lab tests for CERA and insulin became available following the Olympics. The testing began in January and focused mainly on endurance events in cycling, rowing, swimming and athletics. ‘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 Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC medical commission. The IOC will wait for word from the national Olympic bodies before holding any disciplinary hearings. Athletes found guilty of doping face being disqualified from the Olympics and stripped of any medals they won. In the meantime, national and international bodies are free to impose provisional suspensions of athletes, the IOC said. A Greek race walker, Athanasia Tsoumeleka, announced in January that she had tested positive in the new Beijing checks. Tsoumeleka, who finished ninth in Beijing in the 20K walk, was charged by a Greek prosecutor earlier this month with using banned drugs. The IOC previously disqualified nine athletes for doping at the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. In addition, there were six doping cases involving horses in the equestrian competition. The IOC is storing doping samples for eight years so they can be tested retroactively when new detection methods are developed. The World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the IOC findings. Under the WADA code, athletes can be disciplined up to eight years from the date of a doping violation. ‘We suggest that athletes who may be tempted to cheat keep this reality in mind,’ WADA president John Fahey said. ‘We believe that retrospective testing serves as a strong deterrent.’