By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s weightlifters will be absent from next year’s Olympics after the sport’s governing body banned the country’s athletes following a high number of doping cases, it said on Friday.
“Due to the special anti-doping policy for Rio 2016, the EB (Executive Board) confirmed that Bulgaria is not eligible to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games,” the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said.
In March, eight male lifters, including three European champions, and three female athletes, tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol at a training camp for the European championships in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Former European champion Demir Demirev, 2014 European champions Ivan Markov and Ivaylo Filev and female weightlifter Milka Maneva have also been banned for similar offences.
Bulgarian weightlifting has suffered repeated embarrassment due to doping cases and the national body was temporarily stripped of its licence in 2009.
A year earlier, Bulgarian weightlifters first missed the biggest event on their sporting calendar after the Balkan nation withdrew its team prior to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when 11 members failed doping tests.
Bulgaria’s reputation was also tarnished at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where the team were stripped of three gold medals and sent home in shame following positive drugs tests.
The IWF also decided to withdraw one of Romania’s quota of lifters for the Games due to multiple positive tests for the country’s athletes during the qualification period, it said.
The bans come amid a high-profile doping scandal involving Russian track and field athletes with the country’s federation suspended along with its anti-doping agency and drugs-testing lab.
The sanctions are part of a crackdown on drugs cheats in Russia following a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) special commission which exposed widespread state-sponsored doping.
The report detailed cover-ups, bribes to conceal positive tests, destruction of samples and evidence of state security services colluding with the athletics federation to facilitate cheating.
(Editing by John O’Brien)