Korzhanenko faces lifetime ban from sport


ATHENS, Greece -- Russia's Irina Korzhanenko was stripped of
her shot put gold medal Monday, the first athlete of the Athens
Games to lose an Olympic title because of doping.

Korzhanenko, 30, the first woman to win a gold medal at the
sacred site of Ancient Olympia, tested positive for the steroid
stanozolol after Wednesday's competition. The backup B sample
confirmed the initial finding.

The International Olympic Committee executive board expelled
Korzhanenko from the Games and ordered the Russian Olympic
Committee to return the medal.

The gold goes to Cuba's Yumileidi Cumba Jay. Germany's Nadine
Kleinert would move up to silver, and Russia's Svetlana Krivelyova
to bronze.

"Irina is in the Olympic Village and she
is totally dismayed," Nikolai Durmanov, head of the Russian anti-doping
agency, told reporters. "We are talking to her, trying to find the
reasons why it all happened.''

A spokesman for the Cuban delegation, Pedro Cabrera, said the
team was happy for Cumba.

"She deserves the gold medal because of her dedication and hard
work before and during the games,'' he said.

Cabrera also criticized sports in general, saying that doping is
a "byproduct of the excessive commercialization of sports and
sports factors that, far from benefiting it, hurts it.''

Korzhanenko, who served a previous two-year drug suspension,
faces a lifetime ban from the sport. In 1999, she was stripped of
the silver medal at the world indoor championships for a doping
violation and was given a two-year suspension that kept her out of
the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Under international rules, two steroid violations warrants a
lifetime ban.

The IOC decision came a day after Greek weightlifter Leonidas
Sampanis became the first athlete of the Athens Games to be
stripped of a medal for a doping offense. Sampanis lost his bronze
medal in the 137-pound (62kg) category after testing positive for

The shot put was held at Ancient Olympia, about 200 miles
southwest of Athens, two days before the start of track and field
in Olympic Stadium. It was the first time women have competed at
the site; the ancient Olympics were for men only.

Korzhanenko won with a throw of 69 feet, 1 1/4 (21.06 meters) --
the first throw more than 21 meters in four years. A member of the
Russian Army Club from Azov in the Rostov region and a member of
the Russian national team since 1994, Korzhanenko won the world
indoor title in 2003 in Birmingham, England.

Another female shot putter, Uzbekistan's Olga Shchukina, tested
positive in a pre-event screening for the steroid clenbuterol. She
finished 19th and last in her qualifying group and was expelled
from the Games on Friday.

So far, nine weightlifters have failed drug tests, including
another Russian, Albina Khomich. A Kenyan boxer was also sent home
for using drugs. With six days left in the games, including track
and field events, more positives were likely.

"The testing is more extensive and more comprehensive, so you'd
expect we would catch more athletes that are cheating,'' Dick
Pound, the World Anti-Doping Agency chief, told The Associated
Press Sunday. "It increases the confidence in the authenticity of
the competition if we are taking people out who cheated.''

Probe started for weightlifter's claim
A prosecutor started an investigation
Monday into claims that weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, stripped of
his bronze medal for doping, could have been slipped a banned
substance without his knowledge.

Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis opened the investigation a day after
Sampanis became the first athlete of the Athens Games to be
stripped of a medal for a doping offense. He lost his bronze medal
in the 137-pound (62kg) category when a drug test showed he had an
abnormally high level of testosterone.

Sampanis, who won silver medals in 1996 and 2000, has denied
wrongdoing. But Greek weightlifting coach Christos Iakovou said the
testosterone could have been given to Sampanis without his knowing

"I want to thank all the people who are with me and have given
me courage," Sampanis said as he left his house in the Nea Smirni
district of Athens.

"The case has been taken over by my lawyer, a prosecutor and
the federation and I hope that all together we will be vindicated.
I am telling you I am innocent," he said. "When this is over then
I will be OK. I am innocent."

The government has said it will push for a full investigation
into any allegation that Greek athletes may have taken banned
substances, and that it would strip offenders of any privilege
given to them by the state.

Olympic medalists are regularly given jobs in the military or
security services.

"The specific athlete (Sampanis) will be given the chance ...
to have recourse to the proper authorities and be vindicated since
he claims -- as we have all seen -- that he is innocent,'' government
spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.

On Monday, Russia's Irina Korzhanenko was stripped of her shot
put gold medal after testing positive for a steroid.