Thu, Sep 14, 2000 - Page 1 News List

More shame for Taiwan's athletes

STEROID USE Weightlifter Chen Po-pu had hardly arrived in Sydney when he was being escorted onto a plane home for having earlier failed a drug test in Taipei

By William Ide, Hsu Ming-li and Wang Yuan-hung  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN SYDENY , WITH AGENCIES

Weightlifter Chen Po-pu, holding his passport and air ticket, makes his way through members of the media at Sydney airport yesterday to fly home to Taiwan. Chen was ordered to pack his bags after his coach was told by Olympic officials he had tested positive for steroids during a screening.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Taiwan's Olympic team was dealt another serious blow yesterday when a third member of its weightlifting team was barred from competition, further dashing hopes that the island will bring home a gold for the first time in its history.

Yesterday, as hundreds of spectators were converging on Australia's port city of Sydney and the festive spirit of the Games was building, Chen Po-pu (陳柏甫), 23, was being ushered onto a plane and back to Taiwan.

Chang Chao-kuo (張朝國), the head of Taiwan's weightlifting federation, said after hearing of the ban: "I feel so ashamed. All our athletes will now be suspect and this will have a negative impact on the Taiwan team."

Speaking through a press release, Taiwan's Olympic delegation said that the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) had requested that Chen, one of Taiwan's top three male competitors, be banned from competition for two years and barred from participating in the Sydney Olympics.

Chen is the third weightlifter from Taiwan to be barred from participating in the Olympics in a little over a week. On Sept. 5 Chen Jui-lien (陳瑞蓮) and Wu Mei-yi (吳美儀) were also barred from the Games.

All three weightlifters tested positive for muscle building and performance enhancing anabolic steroids.

Chen, who took silver and bronze medals at world junior competitions in 1997 and 1998, was on the reserve list to compete in the 62kg category in Sydney.

At a training session yesterday, a coach with the team said Chen's drug use was baffling since he was not scheduled to compete.

"He had no reason to take any drugs because he wasn't on the formal list of competitors. He was on the reserve list," said the coach, who declined to be identified.

Chen Po-pu first tested positive for steroids in March of this year after he set a new national record for the 63kg category, lifting 130kg in the snatch competition.

Chen said that he was using the drug for treatment of a shoulder injury, which doctors at Tzu Chi hospital in Hualien where he received the treatment have verified.

Chen's father, Chen Chi-jung (陳啟榮), also petitioned against the decision to Taiwan's Weightlifting Association arguing that the IWF standards say that athletes who are being treated for injury can refuse doping tests.

The elder Chen said that the amount of the drug in his son's system may have exceeded international standards, but the drug was not being used illegally.

Chen was barred at that time from competition until an Aug. 18 decision by Taiwan's weightlifting federation overturned a similar ruling against two gold-medal hopefuls, Chen Jui-lien and Wu Mei-yi, allowing them to join Taiwan's Olympic team.

With Chen and Wu allowed to compete, the ban against Chen Po-pu was also lifted on the grounds that the athletes were using the drugs for treatment, not to enhance performance.

However, Chen and Wu had also been found to have performance enhancing drugs that exceeded normal levels in their blood. Chen Jui-lien was using drugs to treat a chronic knee problem. In Wu's case, weightlifting officials have questioned the validity of the testing.

According to IWF regulations, countries who have three athletes found to be using banned performance-enhanced drugs will be fined US$50,000.

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