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Kenya’s sixth Olympic gold?

Wednesday April 29 2009

Asbel Kiprop leads other athletes in the second heat of the men's 1500m in the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Photo/REUTERS

Asbel Kiprop leads other athletes in the second heat of the men's 1500m in the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Photo/REUTERS 

By KAROLOS GROHMANN in Stuttgart and JONATHAN KOMEN in Eldoret

Bahrain’s Olympic 1,500 metres gold medallist Rashid Ramzi and two cyclists are among six athletes to test positive for drugs at the Beijing Olympics, officials said on Wednesday. Italy’s road race silver medallist Davide Rebellin and German Stefan Schumacher, who is already banned for doping, were confirmed to have tested positive for CERA along with Ramzi in re-tests of samples taken in Beijing in 2008.

The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday it had discovered seven more positive drugs results from re-testing samples taken from Beijing involving six athletes. Should the tests be re-confirmed, then Kenya will celebrate its sixth gold medal from the Games as Asbel Kiprop, second to Ramzi in the 1,500m final in Beijing, will be elevated to the gold medal position.

The Italian and Bahrain Olympic Committees confirmed the Rebellin and Ramzi positives while the German cycling federation said Schumacher had tested positive.

Banned blood-booster

The Bahrain Olympic Committee said it would meet Ramzi, the country’s first Olympic champion, to inform him of the findings and hear his explanation. “While the Bahrain Olympic Committee expresses its regret at receiving this news from the International Olympic Committee it confirms that Rashid Ramzi had been subject to many tests before and during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and all the results were negative,” the committee said in a statement.

All the athletes tested positive for CERA (Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator), the new generation of the banned blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO), for which a test was developed only recently. International cycling president Pat McQuaid said the naming of the Italian athlete by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) was wrong.

“CONI have broken the rules and it is disgraceful. It is an international matter and in such circumstances, it is up to the UCI to open disciplinary proceedings,” McQuaid told Reuters. If the B samples are positive, then the athletes face two-year suspensions if they are first time offenders and possible life bans if they have been caught cheating before, like Schumacher.

Ramzi and Rebellin could also have their medals stripped and all six could be banned from the 2012 London Olympics if their international federations, responsible for any sanctions, ban them for any period longer than six months. The new rule was introduced by the IOC prior to the Beijing Olympics as yet another deterrent to drugs cheats, as was the storing of samples for eight years to allow re-testing once new methods of detecting banned substances are developed.

Excitement splashed on the face of Kiprop as he spoke to the Daily Nation in Eldoret on Thursday. “First, my manager called me from Italy. He then confirmed the findings and I’m really happy with the news. “But I’m shocked to learn that Ramzi used drugs to outpace me and that’s not sportsmanship,” said Kiprop who was born on June 30, 1989, at Kaptinga village in Simat Location of Eldoret West District.

Kiprop says he never sensed anything fishy about Ramzi, saying the runner was very strong and in good shape and was really himself in the Olympic final. “He kicked the last 200 metres in 23 seconds and that was shocking. “He burnt out Augustine Choge in the heats with a spectacular sprint to secure a place in the finals,” he said.

Kiprop said although he was proud to have come with the silver, he would still be happier should with the gold. He said disqualifying Ramzi would serve as a lesson to other cheats, asking Kenyan athletes to desist from the using banned substances. “This is completely a disappointment in the athletics industry and a bad image in the global event.”