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By Anna Mudeva, Editing by Clare Fallon

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria withdrew its national weightlifting team

from the Beijing Olympics on Friday after 11 members of the team

failed dope tests, the national weightlifting federation said.

The weightlifters, who were hoping to compete for medals at the

August Games, were tested during a training camp in the Balkan

country on June 8-9, the federation said in a statement.

"The federation decided to withdraw the national weightlifting team --

men and women -- from the Olympics," it said.

Sports officials ordered drugs tests for all Bulgarian Olympic-bound

athletes after the weightlifting announcement and called for tougher

measures against anyone involved in doping.

The failed tests deal a blow to Bulgaria which has been on a mission

to clean up weightlifting's tarnished reputation after a series of

doping scandals and suspensions at previous Olympic Games.

The 11 weightlifters -- eight men and three women -- tested positive

for the banned anabolic substance methandienon, the federation said.

Among them were medal hopes Ivan Stoitsov, who took two gold medals

at last year's world championships, and Velichko Cholakov who won

bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Injury had already ruled out another Bulgarian medal hope Milen

Dobrev, who won the 94-kg title at the Athens Olympics four years ago

"At the doorstep of the Beijing Games our hopes have been damaged,

the work has become meaningless and the tears that were to be shed in

front of the national flag are replaced by tears of helplessness,"

the federation said.

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) declined to comment.

The Bulgarian State Sports and Youth Agency and the country's Olympic

committee announced there would be additional tests for all Bulgarian

athletes who had qualified for Beijing.

"It's better to have a smaller number of medals but clean and honest

than losing the trust of the sports community and suffer doping

scandals," the agency said in a statement.

It also ordered an investigation into the weightlifting case and said

it would propose legal changes to introduce tougher sanctions against

anyone involved in doping.

Bulgaria's reputation hit a low at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where

the team were stripped of three golds and sent home in shame

following positive drugs tests.

Weightlifting has been the sport worst affected by doping and almost

lost its status as an Olympic sport after five doping cases at the

1988 Games.

Only the former Soviet Union has won more medals than Bulgaria in

weightlifting's major championships.

The Bulgarian Olympic Committee said it would meet on Monday to

discuss the "doping scandal with the weightlifters."

The national federation's statement said the banned substance most

likely reached the weightlifters' bodies through "contaminated"

permitted recovery substances, such as proteins.

"Theoretically, taking it through food or ill intentions are not

ruled out," it said.

Earlier this month, the IWF gave two-year suspensions to 11 Greek

weightlifters who had tested positive for a banned substance in March.


Der er vist ikke nogen der har postet det endnu...

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Nine Bulgarian weightlifters who tested positive for a banned substance in June have been suspended for four years and two were banned for life, the Bulgarian state agency for youth and sport said on Thursday.

The agency announced that the domestic federation has been fined $465,000 by the International Weightlifting Federation.

The Balkan country withdrew its teams from the Beijing Olympics after eight men and three women failed doping tests during a training camp. Six men, including 2007 world champion Ivan Stoitsov and the bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics Velichko Cholakov, and the three women have been banned for four years. However, Georgi Markov and Alan Tsagaev, were banned for life as this was their second doping violation.

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