More Olympic Athletes Nabbed for Doping

LONDON (AP) - The gold medalist in one of track and field's
glamour races and a silver winner in cycling are among six athletes
from the Beijing Games nabbed for blood doping in the latest
Olympic drug scandal.

National sports bodies in Bahrain and Italy confirmed Wednesday
that 1,500-meter champion Rashid Ramzi and road race medalist
Davide Rebellin turned up positive for the new blood-boosting drug
CERA in retests of their samples. Dominican women's weightlifter
Yudelquis Contreras and prominent German cyclist Stephan Schumacher were among the others.

A person with knowledge of the results told The Associated Press
that Greek race walker Athanasia Tsoumeleka and Croatian 800-meter
runner Vanja Perisic also tested positive.

If their backup "B" samples also come back positive, the
athletes face being disqualified, stripped of medals and banned
from the next Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that a
total of seven positive tests involving six athletes came back
positive for CERA, which increases endurance by stimulating
production of oxygen-rich red blood cells. The IOC has not named
the athletes or the sports involved.

The six new cases bring to 15 the total number of athletes
caught doping in Beijing, and underscore both the persistence of
cheating across sports and nations and the IOC's aggressive policy
in catching drug users even outside the period of the Olympics.

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 track and field.

Ramzi won Bahrain's first gold medal in track and field and is
the first champion from the Beijing Games to be busted for use of
performance-enhancing drugs.

The Moroccan-born runner, who won the 800-1,500 double at the
2005 world championships, gave Bahrain its first ever Olympic track
and field gold medal with victory in Beijing in 3 minutes, 32.94
seconds.

Ramzi's "B" sample will be tested in France on June 8 and he
will face an IOC hearing the same day, the Bahrain Olympic
Committee said.

"The Bahrain Olympic Committee apologizes for receiving such
news from the International Olympic Committee since it ensured
Ramzi went through all the necessary doping tests before the games
and they were all negative," the committee said in a statement.

Ramzi became a citizen of Bahrain after moving to the Gulf
nation to take up a job in that country's armed forces in 2002, but
retains a Moroccan passport and trains with old coach Khalid
Boulami.

If he is stripped of the Beijing victory, Asbel Kipruto Kiprop
of Kenya stands to be upgraded from silver to gold. Nicolas Willis
of New Zealand would go from bronze to silver, and fourth-place
finisher Mehdi Baala of France could move up to the bronze medal.

Track and field has been battered by Olympic drug scandals, from
100-meter winner Ben Johnson in 1988 to sprinter Marion Jones in
2000, both of whom were stripped of their golds.

The International Association of Athletics Federations confirmed
it had received notification of three cases in track and field, but
declined to give any names because they were considered
confidential.

However, the person with knowledge of the results identified the
two others as Tsoumeleka and Perisic. The person confirmed their
identities to the AP on condition anonymity because the names
haven't been released by the IOC.

Tsoumeleka finished ninth in the 20-kilometer walk, and Perisic
was eliminated in the first-round heats of the 800.

Tsoumeleka announced in January that she had tested positive in
Beijing rechecks. She was charged by a Greek prosecutor earlier
this month with using banned drugs.

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

In Rome, the Italian Olympic Committee suspended Rebellin and
anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri called him to a hearing on
Monday.

The 37-year-old Rebellin finished second behind Spain's Samuel
Sanchez in the Olympic road race. If he loses his medal,
Switzerland's Fabian Cancellera could move to silver and Russia's
Alexander Kolobnev to bronze.

Rebellin's pro cycling team, Diquigiovanni-Androni, temporarily
suspended the rider, pending analysis of the "B" sample.

"I don't see why I should take a path that would ruin me or my
image," Rebellin told Italy's state TV on Wednesday. "I don't
know if I'll still be able to race, but I will always ride because
cycling is my life."

The German cycling federation announced that Schumacher, who
finished 13th in the Beijing time trial and dropped out before the
finish of the road race, was among the positive cases.

The 27-year-old Schumacher already has been banned for two years
by the International Cycling Union after being caught by French
authorities in retesting of Tour de France samples for CERA.

Schumacher won two individual time trial stages at the Tour de
France last July and wore the yellow jersey for two days as race
leader.

"One of the riders (Schumacher) is already under suspension
and, for the other one, (Rebellin) we will be writing to him and
suspending him provisionally," said International Cycling Union
president Pat McQuaid.

The Dominican Olympic Committee identified Contreras as another
of the athletes snared by the retests. She competed in the
116-pound category as Yudelquis Maridalin and finished fifth.

"I know I am clean and have not done anything that would
contradict that," Contreras, who won a gold medal at the 2007 Pan
American Games, told the AP. "I haven't used anything different
than I did in 2007."

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 has already stripped four athletes of Beijing medals -
Ukrainian heptathlete Lyudmila Blonska (silver), Belarusian hammer
throwers Vadim Devyatovskiy (silver) and Ivan Tsikhan (bronze) and
North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su (silver and bronze).


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