NEWS

Weightlifter loses bronze

Leonidas Sampanis, the weightlifter who gave Greece its first medal in these Olympics with a third place last Monday, was stripped of his bronze medal yesterday and expelled from the Olympic Village. The 32-year-old veteran of Greece’s weightlifting «dream team» and silver medalist at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, tested positive for having double the permitted level of testosterone. Although he swore that he had never used the banned hormone, and was strongly supported by his teammates, coach and national federation president, the International Olympic Committee showed no tolerance. «The IOC executive board decided that Leonidas Sampanis is disqualified from the men’s 62kg weightlifting event where he had placed third, shall have his medal and diploma withdrawn, and shall have his Olympic identity and accreditation withdrawn,» IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies told a news conference. She said a second test had confirmed the results of a first test that was leaked to the public on Monday and said the tests confirmed the testosterone was not produced naturally by the athlete but had been taken in some form. «The full decision confirmed that no other person contributed to this anti-doping rule violation,» she said. Davis called on the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to consider any further action against the athlete. The national federation chief, Yiannis Sgouros, came out firmly in support of Sampanis. «Sampanis is innocent and this will be proved. We will have much to say after the Olympics,» he said, adding that everyone would stand by the athlete. Christos Iacovou, the coach whose weightlifters became an international force under his guidance, has suggested that Sampanis is a victim of a conspiracy and told Athens’s Skai radio that a «new bomb» was being prepared against the team. He provided no further details. In a tearful statement to reporters on Saturday, after appearing before the IOC’s Disciplinary Commission, Sampanis said:«In my 10 years as a professional weightlifter I have never taken any such substance. I have gone through many doping controls and I have never been found positive. I want to declare to the Greek people that I swear by God and on my two angels’ – my two children’s lives – that I have never taken this kind of substance. I want you all to believe me and to stand by me.» Pyrros Dimas, winner of gold medals in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney and a bronze in Athens on Saturday, choked up with tears at a news conference yesterday. «We were sad and upset over Leonidas, because it is an injustice, a great injustice,» Dimas said. «But now how does he prove otherwise?» IOC officials have answered Greek claims that testosterone would not have benefited the athlete just before his contest, that it may have been produced naturally in reaction to other medication and that someone else might have got Sampanis to ingest it unwittingly. IOC Medical Commission Director Dr Patrick Schamasch said the athlete had informed the IOC of treatment he had been taking. «It is clear that therapeutic use exemption had been issued and was received on August 7 explaining in detail the medication, as a knee injection, taken by the athlete. After examination we concluded that in no way this medication may have influenced the results,» Schamasch told a news conference. He also said it was not the IOC’s business to know how Sampanis had taken testosterone.