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Martin Meissner/AP
Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi

New Round of Drug Testing Implicates 6 Olympic Athletes

April 30, 2009 06:30 PM
by Rachel Balik
New tests for the performance-enhancing drug CERA have allowed the Olympic committee to retest blood samples and accuse six athletes of doping.

Gold and Silver Medalists Test Positive for Drugs

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After retesting blood samples from several athletes who competed in the Beijing Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has accused six athletes of doping.

One of the athletes, Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi, won a gold medal in the 1500-meter race. Ramzi was born in Morocco but became a citizen of Bahrain after moving there in 2002. His medal, which he stands to lose if his requested B tests turn up positive, was Bahrain’s first gold in track and field. So far, each athlete has only had one test, the A test, and may request a B test to confirm results, The Associated Press reported.

The other medalist was Italy’s Davide Rebellin, who won the silver medal in the cycling road race. Rebellin’s former teammate, Stefan Schumacher, also tested positive for CERA after the Tour de France. The drug is quite popular among cyclists and turns up frequently in the race. Schumacher, from Germany, also tested positive for the drug in the recent round of tests, as did Yudelquis Contreras, a female weightlifter from the Dominican Republic.
An anonymous source “with knowledge of the results” told AP the other two athletes accused are race walker Athanasia Tsoumeleka from Greece and Croatian track and field athlete Vanja Perisic, who competed in the 800-meter race.

The IOC has permission to test an athlete’s blood for up to eight years after an Olympics, Cycling News says.

Background: Testing for doping at Beijing

The IOC announced its decision to retest blood samples from the Summer Olympics in December. At that time, two new tests were developed to detect EPO CERA and insulin, a hormone that can enhance performance. CNN reported that IOC holds on to the blood samples of athletes in the event that new testing technology develops. The retesting began in January.

Initial tests were conducted at the time of the Olympics, as well. Even before the games began, 17 athletes were disqualified based on drug tests. Drug use has always been prevalent for Olympic games and the early disqualifications suggested Beijing would be no different. In fact, after one team member confessed to doping, the IOC retracted the United States 400-meter relay team’s medals from the 2000 Olympics.

Reference: The World Anti-Doping Agency and CERA

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