Olympic Medalist Stripped Of Gold

The International Olympic Committee has stripped Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi of his gold medal from the Beijing Games. In taking his medal for the 1,500 meters, the IOC said Ramzi committed anti-doping violations. Four other athletes were also sanctioned for doping.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The Beijing Olympics are back in the news for the wrong reason. The International Olympic Committee announced today that five athletes have been disqualified because of doping.

As NPR's Tom Goldman reports, that includes Bahrain's first ever gold medal winner.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Unidentified Man: Gold medalist and Olympic champion representing Bahrain´┐Ż

TOM GOLDMAN: On a summer night last year in Beijing, middle-distance runner Rashid Ramzi stepped onto the highest spot on the medals podium. He blew a kiss to the crowd, waved with both hands and basked in the glow of his moment. The 1,500 meters is one of the most prestigious events in track and field, and on this August evening, Ramzi was getting the gold medal for the biggest 1,500 of all.

Nothing in Ramzi's body language or demeanor telegraphed what was to come: a positive drug test earlier this year, and today, a gold medal taken away. Rashid Ramzi became the first gold medalist from Beijing Games stripped of his prize. Italian bicycle racer Davide Rebellin had a silver medal from the Beijing road race taken away. Three non-medal winners were disqualified as well.

All five athletes were sanctioned after they tested positive for CERA, a form of the banned oxygen-boosting drug EPO. And all five were nabbed retroactively. They were tested during the Beijing Games and then had their samples retested earlier this year, when a fully validated test to detect CERA became available. It was during the round of retesting when the positive results emerged.

Dr. GARY WADLER (Chairman, World Anti-Doping Agency): Well, I think it's another notch on the belt for anti-doping.

GOLDMAN: Dr. Gary Wadler is a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA. He says it's a giant step forward that the IOC now stores samples collected at Olympic games for eight years in order to retroactively test.

Dr. WADLER: It's not like you got a pass and now you got a free ride. For eight years you're sitting there with the possibility, as the technology for detection improves, that those stored specimens may in fact reveal that at the time of the games, you were, in fact, doping.

GOLDMAN: According to the IOC, there will be nearly 70 percent more doping tests at the Vancouver Olympics next February than the previous winter games, and that doesn't count the tests that may happen in the eight years that follow.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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