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Champion in 1500 faces doping panel

Rashid Ramzi, from Bahraini, was one of 5 who tested positive for CERA.

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Olympic 1,500-meter champion Rashid Ramzi faced a disciplinary hearing Monday to explain why he tested positive for the blood-boosting drug CERA after the Beijing Games.

The Morocco-born Bahraini was one of five athletes whose cases were heard by the International Olympic Committee panel. They were caught this year in new tests using blood samples taken at the games. All deny doping.

The others are Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, who won silver in the road race; German cyclist Stefan Schumacher; Croatian 800-meter runner Vanja Perisic; and Greek race walker Athanasia Tsoumeleka.

A sixth athlete, women’s weightlifter Yudelquis Contreras, was initially found positive in the retesting process. But the Dominican Olympic Committee cleared her last month after the “B” sample came back negative.

The IOC can strip athletes of their results and medals and ban them from the 2012 London Olympics.

Disciplinary panel member Denis Oswald said rulings were expected when the IOC executive board meets in Berlin on Aug. 13-14.

“Some of the cases have to go to the executive board and the intention is to announce all the results together,” Oswald told the Associated Press after the nearly seven-hour session. “There’s quite a lot of arguments and we now have to study them.”

Ramzi emerged from IOC headquarters with his lawyer, Maurice Suh, about 90 minutes after the hearing started. Suh, whose previous clients in doping cases include former Olympic 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin and cyclist Floyd Landis, outlined the runner’s defense.

He said the new test for CERA was not certified when Ramzi’s sample was tested; that the test produced a negative “B” result for another athlete; and documents to explain how the sample went from Beijing to the laboratory in Paris were missing.

“The utmost care should be taken to ensure that the process is fair to Mr. Ramzi,” Suh said.

Rebellin’s lawyer, Fabio Pavone, said through a translator his client has “always been a clean athlete and he intends to demonstrate that. He is confident because he has nothing to hide.”

Schumacher said he was “hopeful” after a 90-minute hearing.

“I have to fight for my rights because I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” the German said.

Schumacher’s lawyer, Michael Lehner, said he argued that the testing in the Paris laboratory did not follow World Anti-Doping Agency standards.

“They took the same people (to work on) the ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples so the results are not valid,” Lehner said.

Perisic and Tsoumeleka were represented by lawyers.

The panel was chaired by IOC vice president Thomas Bach of Germany, and included Switzerland’s Oswald, Gerhard Heiberg of Norway and Frank Fredericks, the former Olympic sprinter from Namibia.

The IOC can disqualify athletes from the games though suspensions must be imposed by an Olympic sport’s international governing body. Under new IOC rules, any athlete caught doping and banned at least six months cannot compete in the next Olympics.

The athletes tested positive for CERA, an advanced version of the endurance-boosting hormone EPO, when a new lab test became available following the Olympics. The drug also was found in tests of backup samples, allowing the IOC to open disciplinary cases.

Ramzi was the first gold medalist from Beijing caught using performance-enhancing drugs. He gave Bahrain its first Olympic track and field gold medal with victory in the 1,500. If Ramzi is stripped of the victory, Asbel Kipruto Kiprop of Kenya stands to be upgraded from silver to gold. Nicolas Willis of New Zealand would go from bronze to silver, and fourth-place finisher Mehdi Baala of France would get the bronze.

Rebellin finished second behind Spain’s Samuel Sanchez. If he loses his medal, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellera would move to silver and Russia’s Alexander Kolobnev to bronze.

Tsoumeleka, who won the Olympic 20K walk gold in 2004, Perisic and Schumacher did not win medals in Beijing.

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