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September 22, 2000
Bulgarian lifters banned after two more fail dope tests
Bulgaria's entire weightlifting team was banned from the Sydney Olympics on Friday after two more of its medallists were disqualified for doping in another scandal for the country and the sport.
The International Weightlifting Federation applied the sanction under its "three strikes and out rule" whereby a national federation is suspended for at least 12 months if three of its lifters test positive in a calendar year.
"The Bulgarian weightlifting team is suspended forthwith for a period of not less than 12 months pending further investigations," the IWF said in a statement issued after a meeting of its executive board.
"All remaining lifters as well as officials from Bulgaria will not be allowed to take part in the Olympic Games."
The IWF said it expected the Bulgarian federation to draw up detailed proposals on how to end doping among its athletes.
Izabela Dragneva, gold medal winner in the women's 48 kg category, and men's 62 kg bronze medallist Sevdalin Minchev were stripped of their medals and kicked out of the Games on Friday after positive tests for the banned diuretic furosemide.
On Wednesday, men's 56 kg silver medallist Ivan Ivanov met the same fate after also testing positive for furosemide.
"There are some athletes that did not want to learn the lessons. They are learning the hard way now," International Olympic Committee director general Francois Carrard said.
IWF rules allow a federation to avoid suspension by paying a $50,000 fine, as Romania did this week to stay at the Games.
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch earlier said the Bulgarians would pay the fine, though it was not clear right after the IWF announcement whether that remained the case.
A RE-RUN OF SEOUL?
Weightlifting almost lost its status as an Olympic sport after five doping cases at the 1988 Seoul Games, two of them involving Bulgarian gold medallists who had also taken furosemide. Bulgaria withdrew its teams from those Olympics.
Six doping cases involving weightlifters have already hit the Sydney Games -- the three Bulgarian medallists plus two Romanians and one Taiwanese lifter who all failed pre-Olympic tests.
IWF vice-president Sam Coffa said Bulgaria should not be given the choice of paying a fine.
"Anyone who brings this much darkness to us on a world stage should forfeit the right to be members of our community," Coffa, an Australian, told reporters.
"It's time for us to get tough and if we have to be bastards we have to be bastards," he said.
Diuretics can be used by weightlifters to decrease weight before competition. In weightlifting, whenever a contest ends in a tie, the athlete with the lowest body weight is judged the winner.
Diuretics can also mask the presence of other banned substances. Furosemide is a relatively primitive diuretic.
"When athletes use a product that is well known, it is a bit stupid," said IOC medical commission chairman Prince Alexandre de Merode.
FAME, THEN SHAME
Dragneva, 29, became the first gold medal winner in Sydney to be branded a drugs cheat. On Sunday, she had made history as the first woman to win a weightlifting event at an Olympics.
Silver medallist Tara Nott of the United States was awarded Dragneva's gold and Raema Lisa Rumbewas of Indonesia the silver. Indonesia's Sri Indriyani moved up to bronze.
Minchev's bronze went to fourth-placed Gennady Oleshchuk of Belarus.
Nott, from Kansas, said she was "kind of in shock" after learning she had moved up to gold
"I would obviously want to win the gold on the platform but it's good to know that those who cheat are getting caught.
"It will mean that some day we will have a level playing field and myself and the others will be able to win on the platform rather than after a drug test," Nott said.
(Additional reporting by Paul Holmes and Adrian Warner)
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