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Sampanis denies doping charges


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• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's first Athens medallist Leonidas Sampanis on Saturday denied taking banned substances despite testing positive for the male hormone testosterone.

The International Olympic Committee will announce on Sunday whether it will strip Sampanis of his bronze medal.

Sampanis's positive test, which still needs to be confirmed by analysis of a B sample, has fueled Greek frustration after seeing their two top sprinters -- both Sydney medallists -- quit the Games before facing expulsion for missing a drugs test.

Sampanis, hailed after his win as a hero and restorer of Greek honor, said he did not know why he tested positive.

"I swear, honestly I have never taken any banned substances, I swear on the lives of my two angels, my children," Sampanis, in tears, told reporters.

"I have passed many tests in my ten years as a professional and I have never ever tested positive. I beg you, all Greeks, not to desert me."

Sampanis appeared earlier before an IOC disciplinary hearing which will report its findings to the IOC executive board for a final ruling.

His coach Christos Iakovou denied any of his athletes ever took banned substances.

"We have done everything by the book but Sampanis has tested positive. We don't use such substances," Iakovou said.

Sampanis also won silver in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

His third consecutive Olympic medal initially soothed Greek anger over the sudden fall from grace of Sydney 200 meters champion Costas Kenteris and silver medallist Katerina Thanou.

But Friday's announcement reopened the wound.

"The issue here is to see if the IOC accepts that the substance was in his body naturally or if it was put in his body in which case the punishment would range from stripping him of his medal or taking away his (Olympic) accreditation," Greek Olympic team chief Yiannis Papadoyiannakis said.

Results of a second sample will be known later on Saturday, officials have said.

Papadoyiannakis said he offered to resign as team chief on Friday following the doping cases but it was not accepted.

Meanwhile weightlifting's Olympic standing suffered another blow on Saturday as former women's world champion Albina Khomich was withdrawn from the Athens Games after failing a drugs test.

The Russian, who won the superheavyweight division in Antalya in 2001, tested positive for the banned steroid methandrostenalone, a Russian team spokesman said.

"She has been withdrawn from the competition," said Gennady Shvets. "We are awaiting the results of a B test."

Khomich, 28 next week, had been due to compete in the 75kg class on Saturday.

At least eight weightlifters have received doping bans during the current Games. The sport was threatened with exclusion from the Olympics after the Sydney Games in 2000 because of doping scandals.

Gold for China

Meanwhile Tang Gonghong of China broke world records in the clean and jerk and total lift for women's super heavyweights in winning the Olympic gold medal Saturday.

Tang raised 182.5kg on her final attempt in the clean and jerk to break her own record of 175kg set in April. She needed the record lift to overtake silver medallist Jang Mi Ran of South Korea and win the gold.



Tang's total of 305kg also is a record, surpassing the 302.5kg she lifted in April.


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