The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today (Tuesday) announced that up to 31 athletes from six sports could be banned from the 2016 Olympic Games following a wave of fresh testing of samples from the 2008 Games in Beijing, with president Thomas Bach stating the measures represent a “powerful strike” against drug cheats.
The IOC disclosed in March that it was retesting hundreds of doping samples from the 2008 Olympics in a bid to identify any potential drug cheats before they can compete in this year’s summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The IOC today said it retested 454 selected doping samples from Beijing 2008 following work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and the International Federations (IFs). They were focused on athletes who could potentially start at Rio 2016. As a result up to 31 athletes from six sports could be banned from competing at this year’s Olympics.
The IOC Executive Board has initiated proceedings immediately, with the 12 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) concerned informed in the coming days. All those athletes infringing anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Rio 2016. The IOC said for legal reasons it cannot give more detailed information on the cases at present.
The IOC added that 250 more results from retesting of samples from the 2012 Games in London 2012 will follow shortly, while it is undertaking a wider re-testing programme of medallists from Beijing and London. The samples of those athletes who could be awarded medals following the disqualification of others will also be retested.
The IOC stores blood and urine samples from each Olympics so advances in testing methods can be harnessed for reanalysis years later. The statute of limitations was last year extended from eight to 10 years meaning samples from Beijing 2008 remain valid through to 2018.
The IOC also said that “swift and decisive action” will be taken in the wake of the controversy surrounding the anti-doping laboratory in Sochi for Russia’s staging of the 2014 winter Olympics. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, last week claimed that he provided dozens of Russian athletes with banned substances as part of a state-run doping programme during Sochi 2014.
The latest allegations, which were first reported in the New York Times newspaper, implicated as many as 15 medal-winners. The IOC has today requested Wada to initiate a “fully fledged” investigation into the allegations that testing at the Sochi laboratory was subverted. It added that it has already requested the Russian Olympic Committee to undertake all efforts to ensure the full cooperation of the Russian side in the Wada investigation.
Commenting on today’s announcements, Bach said: “All these measures are a powerful strike against the cheats we do not allow to win. They show once again that dopers have no place to hide. The re-tests from Beijing and London and the measures we are taking following the worrying allegations against the Laboratory in Sochi are another major step to protect the clean athletes irrespective of any sport or any nation.
“We keep samples for ten years so that the cheats know that they can never rest. By stopping so many doped athletes from participating in Rio we are showing once more our determination to protect the integrity of the Olympic competitions, including the Rio anti-doping laboratory, so that the Olympic magic can unfold in Rio de Janeiro.”