NEWS

Doping probe begins

A prosecutor launched yesterday an investigation into the doping scandal involving 11 weightlifters as federation officials blamed a drugmaker for unknowingly supplying the athletes with banned substances. Michalis Dimitrakopoulos, the lawyer of Greek national coach Christos Iakovou, said a Chinese company, which supplies nutritional supplements to the weightlifters, apologized for a mix-up in pills that it provided. «The company, one of China’s biggest pharmaceuticals manufacturers, made a terrible mistake and has apologized,» said Dimitrakopoulos. «Instead of sending L-tyrosine, a nutritional supplement that is globally allowed, they made the tragic error of sending a mixture of L-tyrosine and other substances,» he added. Dimitrakopoulos handed out copies of an e-mail message allegedly sent by a staffer of Shanghai-based Auspure Life. The Chinese company has not officially confirmed the news nor admitted to making any mistakes. Meanwhile, prosecutors launched a preliminary investigation into the scandal, headed by prosecutor Andreas Karaflos. Sporting authorities also held an emergency meeting over the scandal that has thrown the weightlifting team’s preparations for the Beijing Olympics into turmoil. It is not yet known whether the alleged use of banned substances will result in a ban on the Greek weightlifting team from participating in the Beijing Games. «We want to win medals in Beijing but we want to win them on our own merit,» said Yiannis Ioannidis, deputy culture minister in charge of sports. Iakovou, 60, is one of Greece’s most successful coaches, with his athletes winning five Olympic gold medals, along with five silver and two bronze since the 1992 Barcelona Games. The names of the male and female weightlifters who tested positive have not been announced pending confirmation – expected later this week – of the out-of-competition test from samples taken on March 7. On Sunday, all 11 athletes testified before an investigative committee set up by the Greek Weightlifting Federation. The tests were conducted in Athens by the World Anti-Doping Agency on orders of the International Weightlifting Federation.