IWF suspends five more weightlifters for failing pre-Olympics drug

IWF suspends five more weightlifters for failing pre-Olympics drug tests

.c The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Five weightlifters were suspended Thursday for
flunking drug tests they took before the Olympics, including two who
were pulled out just before walking to the lifting stand.

The International Weightlifting Federation said the suspended lifters
were Wafa Ammouri of Morocco, Zoltan Kecskes of Hungary, Viktor
Chislean of Moldova, Pratima Kumari Na of India and Sule Sahbaz of
Turkey – raising to 20 the number of world-class weightlifters
suspended this year.

Normally, suspensions are for two years unless the athlete is a repeat
offender. Earlier this year, 2000 Olympic champion Galabin Boevski was
banned for eight years following a second failed drug test.

Sahbaz is the most accomplished of the latest group, winning a
European championship in 2002 and finishing third in the world
championships at 77kg in 2003. He was second in the European
championships in April. Kecskes had an eighth-place finish at the 1996
Atlanta Olympics.

Ammouri and Kecskes were to have lifted Wednesday, but were suspended
just before their competitions. Kecskes was on the start list
distributed to the media less than an hour before he was to have
lifted, but he didn’t compete.

The news was welcomed by International Olympic Committee president
Jacques Rogge.

“The IOC praises the work and determination of the weightlifting
federation in its fight against doping by testing its athletes on a
systematic basis according to its rules,” he said in a statement.

The cases are the latest setback for a sport plagued by cheating
athletes in the last two Olympics, one that is threatening to
overshadow some exceptional performances on the lifting
stand. However, unlike the Sydney Games, the latest suspensions do not
involve weightlifters who have already competed or won medals.

So far, only one lifter who competed has been suspended: on Monday,
Myanmar’s Nan Aye Khine was stripped of her fourth-place finish
Saturday at 48kg after failing her test.

Embarrassed by four failed tests at the 2000 Games – three that cost
Bulgarians medals – the IWF tried to crack down on cheating earlier
this year by banning three Bulgarians well before the games began. Two
of Boevski’s Bulgarian teammates, former world champions Zlatan Vanev
and Georgi Markov, drew 18-month suspensions that barred them from
competing in Athens.

The three tampered with their doping tests nine months ago at the 2003
world championships in Vancouver by submitting urine samples that came
from the same person, the IWF said.

Eleven other weightlifters from 10 nations failed drug tests in
Vancouver, according to the IWF – including Shang Shichun, who set
three world records while winning the women’s 75kg for China. Banned
substances were found in the tests of nine men and two women.

Other 2003 medalists suspended and stripped of their medals were 69kg
silver medalist Vladislav Lukanin, Russia; 77kg silver medalist Gevorg
Davtyan, Armenia; 105 kg-plus silver medalist Artem Udachyn, Ukraine;
and 62kg bronze medalist Henadzi Aliashchuk, Belarus.

Sahbaz moved up to a bronze medal in Vancouver because Davtyan failed
his drug test.

Others who failed in Vancouver were Sanjar Kadyrbergenov,
Turkmenistan; Vladimir Popov, Moldova; Khalid A. Himdan, Iraq;
Mohammad Swara, Iraq; Dmitriy Lomakin, Kazakhstan; and Hungary’s Ilona
Danko. Danko, who finished fourth, said she took an unspecified
diuretic to speed weight loss.

In Sydney, Bulgaria’s Izabela Dragneva’s gold in the first women’s
event at the Olympics was given instead to the United States’ Tara
Nott. Nott, now known as Tara Cunningham, and Dragneva returned to
Athens but neither won medals Saturday, the first day of
competition. Dragneva was suspended for two years before being

Two Romanians also tested positive just before the Sydney Games, and
the day the Bulgarian drug scandal broke, two Qatar lifters who
trained in Bulgaria were scratched from the event without explanation.

Bulgaria’s entire team was temporarily banned, but was reinstated by
the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Afterward, Alan Tsagaev went on to
win a silver medal. Romania’s team was also banned by the IWF
following three failed drug tests within a year, but was allowed to
stay in the 2000 Games by paying a $50,000 fine.

Thursday’s drug suspensions came a day after Croatia’s Nikolai
Peshalov won a record-tying fourth Olympic weightlifting medal, a
bronze; Zhang Guozheng lifted China’s third weightlifting gold medal
in as many events, and Ukraine’s Natalia Skakun overcame a big deficit
to take the gold and force Belarus’ record-setting Hanna Batsiushka to
settle for silver.

Next up Thursday, China looks for more golds from double gold medalist
Zhan Xugang in a very competitive men’s 77kg weight class and
19-year-old world champion Liu Chonhong in women’s 63kg.

08/19/04 06:15 EDT