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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Two Athletes Sent Home After Testing Positive for Drugs

IOC: Silver-medal-winning weightlifter from Bulgaria, hammer thrower from Belarus disqualified.

September 20, 2000|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — In the latest Olympic disgrace involving the nation of Bulgaria and the sport of weightlifting, a Bulgarian lifter was stripped today of his silver medal and sent packing because he tested positive for a substance often used to mask the use of drugs.

Ivan Ivanov, 28, who Saturday won silver in the bantamweight division, tested positive for the diuretic furosemide, the International Olympic Committee announced.

IOC Director General Francois Carrard said Ivanov had already left the Olympic Village. Carrard also announced today that Vadim Devyatovsky of Belarus, a hammer thrower, had been kicked out of the Games after testing positive for traces of the banned steroid nandrolone.

These are the first athletes banned as a result of tests conducted during the Games. Several others have been suspended following pre-Games tests, according to Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium, chairman of the IOC's medical commission.

Diuretics help the body flush itself of fluids. Cheaters use diuretics to hide the presence of performance-enhancing drugs.

Nandrolone builds muscles and helps athletes recover faster from hard training.

Weightlifting is so contaminated by drug use that a few years back Olympic officials considered taking it off the program.

The Bulgarians have their own sorry history. At the 1988 Games in Seoul, Mitko Grablev won the bantamweight division and Angel Genchev the lightweight. Then Grablev was disqualified--after testing positive for a diuretic. Two days later, Genchev was disqualified for the same reason.

After the announcement of Genchev's test, Bulgarian officials withdrew the rest of their weightlifters from the Games.

The International Weightlifting Federation, aiming to distance itself from the stain of drugs, actually went so far as to change all weight categories after the 1992 Olympics. That wiped out all world and Olympic records and gave federation officials the opportunity to boast that they were "starting clean."

Another shuffling of the weight categories occurred after the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Even before Ivanov's expulsion, events at the Sydney Games had already further strained the sport's credibility.

On Sunday, the IOC said it had kicked out the entire Romanian weightlifting team because three lifters--including two on the Olympic team--had failed drug tests this year. Under the federation's "three strikes" policy, the entire team had to go, the IOC said.

On Monday, the federation lifted the ban on five "clean" lifters after the Romanian Olympic Committee agreed to a $50,000 payment, dubbed a "fine." Such a waiver is included in the federation's rules.

The Bulgarian Ivanov, meantime, had been so delighted at winning silver that he had kissed the barbell after clinching second place--behind Halil Mutlu of Turkey, who pound for pound may be the world's best lifter. The current bantamweight class is for men under 56 kilos, or 123 pounds.

Mutlu, who stands 4 feet, 11 inches, lifted a combined total--in the snatch and in the clean-and-jerk--of 305 kilos, or 671 pounds. Though he lifts for Turkey, he hails from Bulgaria.

By comparison, Ivanov lifted a combined total of 292 1/2 kilos, or 643 1/2 pounds.

With Ivanov now out, the silver medal will go to Wu Wenxiong of China. China's Zhang Xiangxiang was elevated from fourth to third.

Carrard said the IOC intends to redo the medal ceremony.

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