ATHENS — Weightlifting's governing body isn't about to give up its aggressive pursuit of drug cheaters, even if it jeopardizes the sport's future in the Olympics, the group's top official said Thursday after six more positive drug tests.
Five weightlifters were suspended for flunking drug tests taken before the Olympics, including two disqualified as they were about to walk to the lifting stand. All were caught using steroids.
Another, identified by India Olympic officials as Sanamacha Chanu, became the second to be caught by International Olympic Committee testing. She finished fourth Sunday at 117 pounds (53kg).
The International Weightlifting Federation apparently chose to announce the suspensions at the Olympics, rather than afterward, in an effort to convince the IOC it is adequately policing a sport with a reputation as the games' dirtiest.
Twenty-one world-class weightlifters have been caught or suspended this year alone.
"I am sure you are asking, 'Why are you doing these controls? You are digging your own grave,' " IWF President Tamas Ajan said. "Yes, this is true. But I tell you we are doing everything against the drugs and we are going to continue the fight against the drugs because we are for fair play."
The IWF said the suspended lifters were Wafa Ammouri of Morocco, Zoltan Kecskes of Hungary, Viktor Chislean of Moldova, Pratima Kumari Na of India and Sule Sahbaz of Turkey.
Ammouri and Kecskes were scheduled to lift Wednesday but were suspended just before their competitions. Kecskes was on the start list distributed to the media less than an hour before the competition.
Sahbaz is the most accomplished of the latest group, winning a European championship in 2002 and finishing third in the world championships at 165 pounds (75kg) in 2003. She was second in the European championships in April and was to have competed Saturday in Athens. Kecskes had an eighth-place finish at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Normally, suspensions are for two years unless the athlete is a repeat offender. Earlier this year, 2000 Olympic champion Galabin Boevski was banned for eight years after he failed a second drug test.
Monday, Myanmar's Nan Aye Khine was stripped of her fourth-place finish Saturday at 105 1/2 pounds (48kg) after she tested positive for steroids.