Weightlifters deny part in doping

The 11 weightlifters from the Greek national team, who tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition check, gave evidence before a disciplinary committee yesterday and denied knowingly taking any steroids, sources said. The Greek Weightlifting Federation set up the panel after the news broke on Friday that almost the entire men's and women's national teams (11 out of 13 athletes) had failed tests conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on March 7. National team coach Christos Iakovou tendered his resignation immediately. Iakovou did not appear before the committee yesterday but is expected to do so this week. The federation's president, Yiannis Skiadas, insisted yesterday that anyone found to be responsible for the doping would be suitably punished, regardless of whether it is the weightlifters themselves or their coaches who are to blame. Sources said that all the athletes told the panel that they took vitamin supplements and were not aware that they may have contained banned substances. The results of the second test on the sample taken from the weightlifters, known as the B sample, are due to be known this week. If they are also found to be positive, it will confirm that the Greek athletes took a banned substance. Greece will not send a team to the European Weightlifting Championships, which begin in Italy on April 11, and its participation in the Beijing Olympics is also highly unlikely. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) could ban the Greek team for up to two years but said on its website yesterday that «as long as the cases are in-process (B sample and/or hearing) the IWF shall have no further comments.» The substance allegedly used by the weightlifters has not officially been named but Skai Radio reported it was trenbolone acetate, a steroid normally used by veterinarians on livestock to increase muscle growth and appetite. It is a substance widely known on the body-building circuit as it is more effective than testosterone but has a number of damaging side effects, especially for women.