Chinese athletes test positive for banned drug

Two athletes were expelled from a Chinese competition after they reportedly tested positive for a banned substance, the country's official news agency said.

Two athletes were expelled from a Chinese competition after they reportedly tested positive for a banned substance, the country's official news agency said.

Zheng Yongji and Li Huiquan were expelled from the fifth Chinese City Games in the southern city of Changsha after they had tested positive for EPO in a random test, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday, quoting a top Chinese anti-doping official. Zheng finished second in the group qualification of the men's 3,000m steeplechase. Li topped his group in the men's 800m qualification.

Shi Kangcheng, director of the Anti-Doping Office under the State General Administration of Sports, said that the samples from the two athletes taken last week had shown traces of EPO in both urine and blood tests.

"The A samples have returned positive results for EPO," he said. The two face further unspecified punishment, Xinhua added.

EPO, or erythropoietin, is a hormone naturally produced by the body but now available as a genetically engineered product. EPO artificially increases the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells and therefore enhances aerobic and endurance capacity.

At the fourth Chinese City Games in 1999, three swimmers were disqualified after testing positive for EPO.

In America, several athletes have tested positive for the banned stimulant, modafinil. The discoveries were made after officials retested some 350 samples from the US track and field championships in June at Stanford, California, following the discovery of a test for the designer steroid THG.

The steroid, at the centre of an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency, previously was undetectable. But the anti-doping agency recently received a used syringe containing the designer steroid from an anonymous coach and then began retesting samples of track and field athletes.

During the retesting for THG, officials discovered several positive tests for modafinil, according to the Anti-Doping Agency's chief executive, Terry Madden. The names of those athletes who tested positive have not yet been released.

In American Football, the National Football League (NFL) is rechecking players' drug tests to look for THG. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, confirmed: "As soon as the report came out about THG, we said we would be testing for it and we are."

The league have included urine samples, taken previously in search of other drugs, in their checks. Aplayer testing positive for steroids would receive a four-game suspension for a first offence.

Elsewhere, Olympic and professional athletes have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury probing a Californian laboratory that provides nutritional supplements to athletes.

Victor Conte, owner of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was raided in early September by agents of the Internal Revenue Service and a San Mateo County narcotics task force, said that he had been told by athletes that 40 of them had been called to testify. The scope of the grand jury's inquiry is not known.

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