Nine athletes were suspended yesterday for doping offences, just 48 hours before the launch of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The suspensions mark an aggressive crackdown on drugs cheats by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Six of the competitors suspended were caught in "biological passport" tests, which measure changes in an athlete's blood profile, the IAAF confirmed. Another three were apprehended in re-tests of samples from last year's world championship.
The nine drugs cheats – who are all track-and-field athletes – included three Russians, two Ukrainians, one Bulgarian, one Greek and one Turkish national.
Inna Eftimova, of Bulgaria, tested positive for synthetic growth hormone, while the samples of the Ukrainians Nataliya Tobias and Antonina Yefremova both contained traces of synthetic testosterone. All three have been banned for two years.
The Moroccan runner Abderrahim Goumri, who finished third in the London marathon and second in the New York marathon in 2008, was among the six athletes who had irregularities in their "biological passports".
The others were: Russians Svetlana Klyuka, who finished fourth in the 800m at the Beijing Olympics; the 2011 European indoor 800m champion Yevgenia Zinurova; and Nailya Yulamanova; long-distance runners Irini Kokkinariou of Greece; and Turkey's Meryem Erdogan. The nine suspensions came after it was revealed that the Moroccan 1,500m runner Mariem Alaoui Selsouli had also tested positive for a banned diuretic. The 28-year-old had been the hot favourite to win 1,500m gold in London when she ran three minutes 56.15 seconds to win the Paris Diamond League at the Stade de France earlier this month.
A silver medallist at the world indoor championships this year, she has already served a two-year suspension for doping and now faces a lifetime ban under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules.
In a separate, unprecedented development, the Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou also found herself expelled from the Games yesterday: her crime was posting Twitter remarks deemed racist. Papachristou, 23, posted a tweet saying: "With so many Africans in Greece... at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!" This was a reference to an outbreak of the West Nile virus, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes of African origin, in Athens this summer. She also re-tweeted a comment from Ilias Kasidiaris, a politician with the far-right Golden Dawn party, criticising Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's stance on immigration.