31 Athletes Could Miss Rio After Failing Drug Re-Tests From Beijing Olympics

By McCarton Ackerman 05/19/16

The International Olympic Committee announced it will also re-test samples from the 2014 Sochi winter games.

31 Athletes Could Miss Rio After Failing Drug Re-Tests From Beijing Olympics

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are less than three months away, but drug tests from eight years ago at the 2008 Beijing Olympics could come back to haunt dozens of athletes.

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that 31 athletes from six different sports could be banned from competing in Rio after their samples from Beijing were re-tested and came back positive for banned substances. The IOC re-tested 454 samples in total and intends to do the same with samples from the 2012 summer games in London and the 2014 winter games in Sochi. Its primary focus will be on athletes who intend to compete in Rio, the IOC said.

"The aim is to stop any drugs cheats coming to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," the IOC said. “The (IOC) Executive Board agreed unanimously to initiate proceedings immediately, with the 12 National Olympic Committees concerned informed in the coming days." However, it said the names of anyone who failed a doping test will not be revealed until the athletes are informed and a second sample is also tested.

The re-testing comes on the heels of another doping controversy. Last week, the former director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory claimed that dozens of Russian athletes in the 2014 Sochi Olympics were given banned substances, as part of an elaborate state-sponsored doping program. Grigory Rodchenkov told the New York Times that Russian officials replaced as many as 100 dirty urine samples with clean ones, collected from the athletes months earlier. Among those who allegedly took part in the program are two bobsledders who won two gold medals and 14 members of the cross-country ski team. Russia won more medals in Sochi than any other country.

“People are celebrating Olympic champion winners, but we are sitting crazy and replacing their urine. Can you imagine how Olympic sport is organized?” asked Rodchenkov. The U.S. Justice Department has since opened an investigation into the case. Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said that Rodchenkov’s comments were “a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport.”

The issue of doping has even extended to the Paralympics. American Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper was handed a one-year ban in February by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency over a failed drug test last summer. But he will be able to compete in Rio because the ban was retroactive to last June.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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