No mercy on the cheats vows weightlifting chief

  • Erskine McCullough (AFP), PTI, Athens
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2004 20:16 IST
As weighlifting reeled from the news that five lifters had tested positive for drugs and been sent home from the Athens Olympics the federation's president Tamas Ajan vowed to take even tougher measures to catch the cheats.

"In 1976 we were the first to begin the fight against doping and since then have not eased up.

"After these games we will find means to be even tougher as we fight to rid the sport of this scourge," Ajan told AFP in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

And he was defiant against those who claim that the latest expose is damaging the sport.

"People say to me 'Tamas, you are digging your own grave'. As an IOC member, a member of the board of WADA, and president of the International Weightlifting Federation, it is my obligation to do everything against drugs.

"The IWF was the first federation to do out of competition testing in 1985. We are the only sports federation to control every competitor. Since the first of January this year we have carried out 1,000 doping tests, 260 here at Athens, every competitor. We compel them to come six days before the competition starts so we can test them

"It is very expensive but we have to continue the struggle. Here it is costing us 50,000 dollars. Thirty two per cent of our federation's budget goes to catching the cheats," said Ajan.

But Ajan warned that the battle will only be won when everyone joins the struggle.

"It is just not a question of sport but of a nation, of ethics, of youth. The National Olympic Committees must join in, the national sports federations, and others," he stressed.

The five latest positive cases were discovered since teams of drug-busters started work on July 30.

The IWF named the five as male lifters Viktor Chislean of Moldova, Zoltan Kecskes of Hungary and women Sule Sahbaz of Turkey, Pratima Kumari Na of India and Morocco's Wafa Ammouri.

A sixth lifter, Myanmar's Nan Aye Khine, had already been expelled from the games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

Weightlifting's first Olympic drug cheats were unmasked at the 1976 Montreal Games, with two medallists being kicked out, and despite a strict anti-drug regime three Bulgarian medal winners tested positive at the Sydney Games.

Two of those lifters, gold medallist Izabela Dragneva and Sevdalin Angelov, competed in Athens after resurrecting their careers following a drug ban. Neither finished in the medals.

The Sydney scandal overshadowed the sport and left the IWF determined to crack down on the cheats. Anxious to avoid a repeat of Sydney, the IWF banned three top Bulgarian lifters well before the Athens Games began.

While the IOC has in the past warned the IWF that the sport must put its house in order if it wished to remain in the Olympics, games officials insisted Thursday drugs were no bigger a problem in weightlifting than other sports.

"We welcome and praise the federation (IWF) for their systematic testing program," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies. "This is proof that the system is working," she added, denying that weightlifting was a problem sport.

"The percentages for the number of tests carried out against the number of positives are just the same as other sports. It's not correct to say that weightlifting is worse than other sports," she said.


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