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Doping claim to be investigated
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Several top government agencies have teamed up to investigate allegations that Greek weightlifters failed a doping test because of taking Chinese-made dietary supplements, China's drug watchdog said yesterday.

Greek media reported that last Friday, 11 members of its national weightlifting team failed a doping test.

The team's coach Christos Iakovou, who was briefly suspended afterward, blamed the incident on dietary supplements from Shanghai-based firm Auspure Biotechnology.

"It's just a guess and is unsubstantiated," State Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said.

A previous report that the Chinese company had sent an apology letter to team officials for accidentally including banned toxic and cancer-causing substances in the supplements has yet to be confirmed, she said.

On Wednesday, the government formed an inter-ministerial team to look into the case in Shanghai, Yan said.

"The investigation is still under way, and it's too early to draw any conclusions at this stage."

So far, the team has determined Auspure began doing business in Greece in January 2006, and seven shipments to the country were recorded from then until this March.

"We are willing to closely cooperate with Greece to investigate the case" Yan said.

"More information will be released as soon as possible."

If the investigation finds the allegations are true, "stern punishment will be meted out according to the law and regulations", she said.

Established in 2003, Auspure mostly develops and produces new medicines for respiratory and central-nervous-system diseases, but also produces some ingredients used in dietary supplements, according to its website.

In a bid to ensure a clean and fair Olympics this year, the SFDA has launched a nationwide campaign to crack down on drugmakers that have illegally produced and sold stimulants that include banned substances.

So far, it has punished 32 producers and retailers.

The administration has also ordered companies to carefully label their products with warnings to athletes about any substances on the doping list.

The Greek weightlifting squad could face expulsion from the Beijing Olympics if their follow-up B-samples also test positive.

Under the current World Anti-Doping Agency code, first-time offenders face a two-year ban from any sporting body that recognizes the code.

(China Daily April 11, 2008)

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