Indian weightlifter Monica Devi withdrawn from Olympics

BEIJING Wed Aug 6, 2008 3:48pm IST

BEIJING (Reuters) - India has withdrawn woman weightlifter Monica Devi from the Beijing Olympics after she failed a dope test at home, a senior Indian official confirmed on Wednesday.

"We have learnt she is not participating after failing a dope test," India's deputy Chef de Mission Baljeet Singh Sethi told Reuters.

Indian news agency PTI had reported on Tuesday that Monica, the lone Indian lifter to participate in Beijing, had failed a test conducted on July 29.

It quoted unnamed officials saying the report showing the positive result for an anabolic salt came hours before she was to leave for Beijing.

However, the tearful lifter said she was innocent and the federation criticised the state-run Sports Authority of India (SAI), whose laboratory tested the urine sample.

"I've never, ever tested positive," she told reporters in New Delhi. "I don't know what politics has happened."

"Tomorrow, I am supposed to be tested in Beijing. If that turns positive, everyone can shoot me."

Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President Harbhajan Singh said she had been tested almost 30 times in the past 18 months, all of which had negative.

"They (SAI) took four urine samples from her in the last two months and we got a report today saying she tested positive," he told Reuters. "It does not even say which sample tested positive and for what substance. The report itself is flimsy."

He said there would be no replacement because stand-by lifter Shailaja Pujari had been suspended for doping in the past and could prove an embarrassment.

This is another high-profile doping incident involving an Indian woman lifter after Kavita Devi was banned for two years by the federation in May.

Kavita was hauled back from the Asian championships in Japan in April after the federation learned she had tested positive for a steroid during a World Anti-Doping Agency test.

Indian lifters were thrust into the spotlight when positive tests in high-profile competitions led to the federation being suspended in 2006.

India's Egyptian coach Magad Salama quit in February after a row with federation chiefs during which he said several of the country's senior lifters were taking performance-enhancing drugs.

(Additional reporting by N.Ananthanarayanan in New Delhi)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)

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