Bulgarian weightlifters test positive for banned substance

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgarian weightlifters will have to wait a lot longer to compete in the Olympics.

In the latest scandal to affect the sport before the Beijing Games, the Bulgarian weightlifting team withdrew from the upcoming Olympics after 11 of its athletes tested positive for a steroid.

Eight members of the men's team and three women tested positive during out-of-competition checks on June 8-9, a federation statement said Friday.

"As a result, the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation took a decision to withdraw its national weightlifting teams -- men and women -- from participation in the Olympics," the statement said.

The federation identified the banned substance as methandienone.

In neighboring Greece, 11 weightlifters were suspended for two years earlier this month, also after testing positive for a steroid. Greece still plans to send a team of four weightlifters -- three men and a woman -- to the Beijing Games.

Bulgaria's federation said the male athletes who tested positive were Ivailo Filev, Demir Demirev, Mehmed Fikretov, Ivan Stoitsov, Georgi Markov, Ivan Markov, Alan Tsagaev and Velichko Cholakov. The women were Milka Maneva, Donka Mincheva and Gergana Kirilova.

"I was shocked, all this is a provocation," said Stoitsov, who won two gold medals at last year's world championships.

The federation took the action without waiting for the results of backup tests. It also said it was "theoretically possible" that the substance could have been ingested accidentally as part of a food supplement, or that the athletes' food could have been spiked.

Three Bulgarian lifters were banned for doping before the Athens Olympics in 2004.