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Saturday, October 21
Six lifters have tested positive

SYDNEY, Australia -- Two more powerlifters have failed drug tests at the Sydney Paralympics, joining four others who already were caught and banned from competition for four years.

These are the first failed drug tests of Paralympians since 1992.

At a press conference about the initial positive cases, International Paralympic Committee president Dr. Robert Steadward said there would be new doping hearings Sunday.

The two athletes failed out-of-competition tests. Steadward would not reveal their nations or which banned substances were involved. There were 129 out-of-competition tests during the week between the opening of the Paralympic Village opened and the Oct. 18 opening ceremony.

The four banned athletes were identified as Radko Radev of Bulgaria, Aurel Berbec of Romania, Ali Mahmoudkikordkheili of Iran and Marina Diakonova of Russia.

The IPC said Saturday the four tested positive for banned substances in Sydney before the Paralympics, an event featuring more than 4,000 disabled athletes from 125 nations.

All four withdrew from competition after failing initial tests. But, under IPC rules, sanctions could not be imposed until analysis of backup samples confirmed the positive result.

The IPC held hearings with the athletes before releasing the statement.

The four-year suspensions will extend beyond the 2004 Paralympics. Two lifters tested positive for anabolic steroids, Berbec for Stanozolol and Mahmoudkikordkheili for Methandienone, while Diakonova and Radev returned positive samples for banned diuretics.

Habib Banai, mission chief of the 41-member Iranian team, said Mahmoudikordkheili will be further penalized by the country's sports officials.

"We are very upset. We are completely against doping and do not encourage at all the doping of any Iranian athletes," Banai said through a translator. "We were completely unaware of this. This person has done this kind of thing in private."

Russian officials at the powerlifting venue declined to comment immediately. Bulgarian and Romanian officials could not be contacted.

Powerlifting is a version of weightlifting in which athletes lie on a bench and press weights up with their arms.

Weightlifting produced four of the 11 positive drug cases during the Sydney Olympics. Three Bulgarians and an Armenian were stripped of weightlifting medals during the Sydney Games.

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