Doping scandal hits Czech Olympic team

Weightlifter Zbynek Vacura, who is part of the Czech Olympic team, tested positive for banned substances on his way to the Olympic Games in Sydney. He has been sent back to Prague and will be tested again on Tuesday. If the tests prove positive again, he could face a two-year ban from competing in weightlifting competitions. This is the first time this has happened to the Czech weightlifting team. Beatrice Cady reports:

I spoke to Mr. Skarda, the chairman of the Czech federation of weightlifters, which coaches Zbynek Vacura. I asked him how such a situation could arise and if there were any testing procedures within the sport federation.

"Vacura has been tested about four times this year, and every time the tests were negative. The last test was a month ago and he tested positive. Now we don't know why or how this happened, this is a problem we'll have to solve when Vacura comes back. One thing is for certain, he won't be competing for the Olympic medal anymore, that's completely out of the question. There was never any effort on our part to force him to use doping. We have never relied on doping. If it's going to make the difference between whether you come 18th or 15th at a competition, it is totally useless. It is strange that this should have happened. It is sad, but unfortunately, that's life."

What will the consequences be for the Czech team?

"There won't be any consequences for the Czech team. There will obviously be consequences for the weightlifting federation, and for Vacura himself. When he comes back, he will be tested one more time and if the test proves negative, he can fly back to Sydney. But I doubt very much whether the test will prove negative. If the tests are positive, Vacura will not be allowed to compete for two years. The problem will then be that in two years, he'll be out of practice and will then have to catch up to his contemporaries. He will have to decide whether he wants to come back or not. I myself am not sure that Vacura is really guilty of doping."

This was the first case of doping for the Czech weightlifting team. Are there any chances of it happening again? What could the weightlifting federation do to fight against doping?

"Together with Hungary, we have begun a fierce battle against doping, as far as weightlifters are concerned. There have been problems. The substance which Vacura took is well known, it is registered as a forbidden substance. But as you know, sportsmen and women always want to improve their performance. We do, however, have them tested regularly. This is the first case and it came totally unexpectedly."

Author: Beatrice Cady
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