Yuriy Bilonog, in 2004. (Getty Images)The International Olympic Committee has stripped four athletes who competed in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens of their medals, following re-testing of blood samples stored for eight years.
Gold medalist Yuriy Bilonog (Ukraine, shot put), silver medalist Ivan Tsikhan (Belarus, hammer throw), and bronze medalists Svetlana Krivelyova (Russia, shot put) and Irina Yatchenko (Belarus, discus) were stripped of their medals. This brings the total number of doping cases at the Athens Games to 31, after 26 positive tests at the time. That is a record for any Games.
The IOC stores samples for eight years to address either newly-discovered substances or new testing methods, and the four athletes were caught via this provision. The case of a fifth athlete, Oleg Perepechenov (Russia, weightlifting) remains pending.
"You always want to wait until science gives you the most sensitive tests," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in announcing the decision. "When we retested the athletes for Athens they had undergone testing that was negative (during the Athens Games). Since then there has been progress, we were informed about better tests and new tests. The more time you have, the bigger the chances that science will deliver better tests."
It is now up to the individual national federations to reclaim the medals. The IOC will then begin the process of re-awarding the medals.
The current statute of limitations on Olympic doping cases is eight years, though Rogge would be willing to extend that to 10, as the World Anti-Doping Agency is considering.
In related news, the IOC has delayed a decision on whether to revoke Lance Armstrong's bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games. The IOC has said it wants the medal back after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released findings that led to Armstrong losing his seven Tour de France titles. The IOC is waiting for the International Cycling Union (UCI) to make a formal notification to Armstrong of the loss of all his results since 1998.
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