China Bans Second Olympic Athlete for Doping

July 3, 2008 7:08:23 AM PDT
China banned a second Olympic hopeful after a wrestler tested positive for drugs, a top anti-doping official said Thursday. Luo Meng, who was on the national Olympic wrestling team, tested positive for a diuretic during recent random tests, said Zhao Jian, deputy head of the China Anti-Doping Agency.

The weight-loss substance is often used to remove traces of performance-enhancing drugs.

Luo, along with his coach Zhang Hua, has been banned from competing in the sport for life, Zhao said.

It is the second time in two weeks that China has been embarrassed by doping violations just ahead of the Olympics. Last week, Olympic swimming hopeful Ouyang Kunpeng, along with his coach, were given lifetime bans after he tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol.

Ouyang, a backstroker who won three silver medals during the 2006 Asian Games, was caught during a routine out-of-competition test in early May.

"Although we're doing more and more checks, there's no way we can check all athletes, and we can't guarantee all the athletes are clean," Zhao said.

First-time doping offenses generally get a two-year suspension, but the harsh penalties reflect China's determination to enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding drugs for this Olympics after its scandal-ridden history of athletes and doping.

Altogether, China has logged eight cases of drug violations since January, according to Titan Sports, China's most well-known sports newspaper. The six other cases involved athletes at the provincial level who were not headed for the games - two divers, two track and field athletes, a weightlifter and a swimmer. They will be banned from participating in next year's national competitions.

"The case like Luo Meng is quite rare at national team level, but it also shows that those teams should improve the management and education of athletes," Zhao said.

Earlier this week, Zhao told The Associated Press that China was "resolutely determined to send clean athletes to the Beijing Olympic Games."