Greece to toughen doping laws

Greece to toughen doping laws

Suspended Greek weightlifting coach Christos Iakovou is set to sue a Chinese drug-testing company [AFP]

Greece has pledged to toughen its doping laws after some of the national team's top weightlifters failed drugs tests which could lead to a ban from the Beijing Olympics.

Eleven weightlifters tested positive for banned substances last week, stunning the sport that has enjoyed large medal hauls for Greece in three of the past four Olympic Games.

"We are not interested in medals that come at all costs," Michalis Liapis, Culture Minister, who also oversees the country's sports, told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

"We were ordered by the Prime Minister to take all necessary measures to expose this case.

"It is time to bolster our legal arsenal to have healthy sports and clean athletes."

"It is time to bolster our legal arsenal to have healthy sports and clean athletes."

Michalis Liapis,
Culture Minister
Liapis added that the government would draft and include amendments to the law within 10 days.

Ministry officials have said the main legal change to existing doping laws will be upgrading the use and distribution of banned substances from its current status as a misdemeanour to a felony.

The weightlifting case has made media headlines for the past week as memories of another pre-Olympic doping fiasco four years ago returned to haunt the Greeks.

Sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, the country's main medal hopes, were withdrawn from the Athens Olympics after failing to appear for doping tests on the eve of the Games.

Alleged spike

Greek weightlifting federation officials including Christos Iacovou, suspended head coach, blamed the positive tests on Chinese company Auspure Biotechnology, who they say accidentally spiked a batch of supplements with banned ingredients.

Greek officials said Auspure had also sent an e-mail apologising for the ingredients mix-up which the Shanghai based company have since confirmed.

However the federation also blamed Iacovou on Thursday for "acting on his own initiative, without the approval of the federation, when he ordered the supplements in question."

Iacovou, who has said he will sue the Chinese company as will one of the athletes who tested positive, insisted the federation had been kept informed of his nutritional supplements purchases.

Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into the matter.

The Greek weightlifting squad could face expulsion from the Beijing Olympics if their follow-up B-samples test positive.

Under the current World Anti-Doping Agency code, the athletes face a two-year ban if they are first-time offenders.

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