Three Chinese weightlifters stripped of 2008 Olympic gold

Lausanne (AFP) - Three Chinese women's weightlifting gold medallists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were disqualified for doping on Thursday following a reanalysis of their drug tests, the International Olympic Committee said.

It leaves China facing a ban from international competition for a year, a sanction brought in by the sport's governing body the IWF last year to crack down on doping that is rife in weightlifting.

Cao Lei, the 75kg champion, Chen Xiexia, the 48kg gold medallist, and Liu Chunhong, who won the 69kg category, were stripped of their 2008 titles.

The Chinese trio, all aged between 31 and 34, tested positive for the banned GHRP-2, a human growth hormone.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) is attempting to rid the sport of a drug-taking culture that has made it one of the most notorious Olympic events.

The IWF barred serial performance-enhancing offenders Russia and Bulgaria from competing at the Rio Games last summer.

Two months before the Games the IWF adopted a resolution that said any country which returns three or more positive drugs tests from the reanalysis of samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 would be suspended for a year.

That would mean China potentially missing out this year on the Asian Championships in April while the World Championships are set for November.

In all, eight athletes were disqualified on Thursday from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in London as part of the ongoing series of retests from 2008 and 2012.

Also disqualified were Belarus shot-putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who was bronze medallist in Beijing but tested positive for the steroid turinabol.

She was only promoted to the bronze medal position after compatriot Natallia Mikhnevich failed an earlier dope test.

Another Belarusian, hammer thrower Darya Pchelnik, lost her fourth spot from the 2008 Games.

Three non-medal weightlifters from the 2012 Olympics in London -- Sibel Simsek of Turkey, Intigam Zairov of Azerbaijan and Armenia's Norayr Vardanyan -- were also disqualified.

In total, the IOC is reanalysing 1,243 samples from Beijing and London using testing techniques not available at the time. By the end of December, the number of positive tests from the reanalysed samples had reached 101.

Weightlifting accounts for the bulk of positive tests, followed by athletics, wrestling and cycling.

The results of the new tests will feature in April during discussions to map out the programme of future summer Olympics.

"We will have to look at the results in detail, connect each sport with each country and see if it is a problem specific to each country," said IOC president Thomas Bach recently.

"And then we will study the situation with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)."

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