Ramzi stripped of Olympic 1,500-meter gold

BY foxsports • November 18, 2009

Fifteen months after the Beijing Olympics, Bahraini middle-distance runner Rashid Ramzi was stripped of his 1,500-meter gold medal Wednesday and four other athletes were disqualified for doping at the games. The International Olympic Committee took action against the five athletes who tested positive in April in retroactive tests for CERA, an advanced version of the blood-boosting drug EPO. The Moroccan-born Ramzi was the only gold medalist from Beijing caught using performance-enhancing drugs. He had given Bahrain its first ever Olympic track and field gold medal by winning the 1,500, one of the most prestigious events in the sport. The IOC also stripped Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin of his silver medal in the Beijing road race, a decision which had been announced Tuesday by the Italian Olympic Committee. Also disqualified Wednesday were German cyclist Stefan Schumacher, Croatian 800-meter runner Vanja Perisic, and Greek race walker Athanasia Tsoumeleka. They did not win medals in Beijing. All five athletes face possible two-year bans from their international sports federations. In addition, under IOC rules, they are ineligible for the next Olympics in London in 2012. The athletes' samples were collected and tested at the Beijing Games in August 2008. They tested negative at the time, but the IOC reanalyzed the samples earlier this year when a fully validated test for CERA became available. The IOC stores Olympic doping samples for eight years with the option of reanalyzing them once new testing methods are developed. IOC medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said Wednesday's decision shows the Olympic anti-doping effort is working. "It is a very good message," he told The Associated Press. "We do have this type of possibility to go back and make use of the eight-year statute of limitation. This sends a very serious warning to people. Even though you may not be caught at the competition today you may be identified tomorrow. That is a deterrent, for sure." Ramzi was the biggest name among the five athletes caught in the retests. The IOC ordered Bahrain's national Olympic committee to return his gold medal "as soon as possible" and asked the International Association of Athletics Federations to modify the 1,500 results and consider any further action against Ramzi. Asbel Kipruto Kiprop of Kenya stands to be upgraded from silver to gold in the 1,500. Nicolas Willis of New Zealand could go from bronze to silver, and fourth-place finisher Mehdi Baala of France would get the bronze. Ramzi could appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Sebastian Coe, who won two 1,500 Olympic titles in 1980 and 1984 and is an IAAF vice president, praised the stripping of Ramzi's medal - one of the latest in a string of doping scandals in track and field. "That was the right decision," Coe told the AP. "Cheats cannot prosper in our sport and people will realize that sooner or later. ... Unfortunately, that was high profile and we can do without it, but it also shows the quality of our testing procedures now." Rebellin, the Italian cyclist, was the only other medalist caught up in the retesting cases. Samuel Sanchez of Spain won the road race in Beijing. Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland is now set to move from bronze to silver, and Alexander Kolobnev of Russia from fourth to bronze. Rebellin is the first Italian athlete stripped of an Olympic medal for doping. Schumacher was stripped of his 13th-place finish in the Olympic individual time trial cycling race; Tsoumeleka lost her ninth-place in the women's 20K walk; and Perisic was removed of her sixth-place in a heat of the women's 800. A sixth athlete was initially found positive in the retesting process, but women's weightlifter Yudelquis Contreras was cleared by the Dominican Olympic Committee after the "B" sample came back negative. The IOC said Wednesday that it reserves the right to reopen disciplinary procedures against Contreras "in the event that new evidence comes to light." ---

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