Alifirenko banned for doping

MOSCOW -- Former Olympic champion Sergei
Alifirenko, who pulled out of the Beijing Games citing an eye
injury, was handed a two-year doping ban, the Russian shooting
union (SSR) said on Wednesday.

SSR director Alexander Mitrofanov said Alifirenko was
punished for taking the banned substance dexamethasone as part
of his treatment for the eye disease.

"Of course, we were hoping that the International Shooting
Federation (ISSF) would take into account several extenuating
circumstances and issue a suspended sentence," Mitrofanov was
quoted as saying by Russian news agency All Sport.

"But the ISSF chose to take a formal approach."

Mitrofanov said Alifirenko would be offered a coaching post
even before his ban would expire in April, 2010.

"We don't want him to waste his time and have offered him a
coaching job in the Russian national team so he would share his
great knowledge and experience with younger shooters," he said.

Alifirenko won gold in the men's 25-meter rapid fire pistol
at the 2000 Sydney Games and a bronze in the same event four
years later in Athens.

The 49-year-old was withdrawn from the Russian team and was
sent home from Beijing on the eve of the Olympic competition,
while his coach explained the sudden pull out was due to poor form.

Alifirenko's ban is the latest in a series of doping
offenses by Russian athletes in recent months.

Seven leading female athletes, including two-time world 1,500
meters champion Tatyana Tomashova and world indoor 1,500 meters
champion and record holder Yelena Soboleva, received two-year
bans in October for manipulating their drug samples.