Now and then, re-testing by Olympics official’s results in medals being stripped from championship athletes. This was the case when a trio of Olympic weightlifters from China has their gold medals taken away, due to positive re-tests for GHRP. These three athletes are female and they’d competed in the Summer Olympics in 2008. This competition was held in Beijing.
All three were gold medallists, so having their medals stripped must have been a grave disappointment. However, it may not have been a total surprise, as athletes definitely keep an eye on advances in testing for banned substances. The three athletes who lost their gold medal standing are Chen Xiexia, Liu Chunhonog and Cao Lei. Lei was successful in the seventy-five KG weight class, while Chunhonog won her medal for the sixty-nine kg weight class and Xiexia won her medal in the forty-eight kg class.
Each weightlifter was found to have traces of an injectable peptide known as GHRP-2 in stored urine. It’s a peptide that releases growth hormone. As well, Sibutramine was found in Chunhonog’s urine. This substance is used for weight loss and also as a stimulant.
The Chinese weightlifting program is now facing a twelve-month suspension, via the IWF, which is the International Weightlifting Federation. Any country that has three athletes or more which fail tests for stored samples will receive this type of suspension. A total ban for China from weightlifting may be on the horizon.
In addition, governing bodies are expected to take a closer look at team support staff for the Chinese weightlifting program, in order to discover who procures and administers steroids to athletes in the program. It’s safe to say that China’s reputation has been damaged by these failed re-tests and that the country’s weightlifting program is in trouble.
Trying to keep Olympic sport clean is a big job. Advances in testing make it easier for officials to retroactively test stored urine and ensure that results from past years do not favor those who have doped. However, athletes will always be tempted to use banned substances. They take the risk because the rewards of becoming Olympic champions are so great. The downside of this is getting caught. When it happens, all of that glory and sense of triumph disappears. The whole world knows that you used peptides or other banned substances in order to beat the competition.
Failed Re-tests Are Common
Failed re-tests happen in every category of Olympic competition. For example, a shot-put athlete from Belarus was recently stripped of two medals after re-testing showed the presence of steroids in stored urine.
Since the Chinese weightlifters were competing in their home country, they perhaps felt more pressure to excel, with a mind to representing their nation well at the Games in Beijing. However, there are no excuses for taking banned substances. It’s always a gamble and, clearly, these three female weightlifters weighed the pros and cons and then decided to take the risk. How much pressure the team’s coaches and support staff placed on these athletes (if any) is unknown.