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NEWS FEATURE Medical chief warns doped cheats at Rio Games: «You will be caught» By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

Europe
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Records, gold medals and jaw-dropping feats have dominated the Rio Olympics, but there remains doubt about how many clean athletes are competing in the Games. The International Olympic Committee‘s medical chief says he is confident doping can be curbed.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Doping has cast a dark shadow over the Rio Olympics. After each breathtaking performance comes the inevitable doubt: was the athlete clean or was chemical help involved?

Richard Budgett‘s job is to be sceptical, but he has confidence in the safeguards that have been put in place to catch doping at the Rio Games - despite spectacular failures in the system at past Olympics.

Budgett is the medical and scientific director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A doctor and 1984 rowing gold medallist, he is in charge not only of protecting the health of athletes at the Olympics, but also of helping lead the fight against doping.

"Any athlete who is cheating should be very scared," he said. "The message to all cheats out there is: ‘Beware, you will be caught eventually.‘"

Budgett was presented to the international media in Rio on Monday, after organizers had been peppered with questions for days about the latest doping incidents to unsettle the Olympics.

One week into the Games, Chinese swimmer Chen Xinyi, Bulgarian steeplechaser Silvia Danekova, Polish weightlifter Tomasz Zielinski and Brazilian cyclist Kleber da Silva Ramos had all been either suspended or expelled after testing positive for banned substances.

Past dopers such as US sprinter Justin Gatlin and Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova were roundly booed by spectators in Rio, and Australian swimmer Mack Horton caused a minor diplomatic incident when he publicly dismissed Chinese rival Sun Yang as a "drug cheat."

And then there is the elephant in the room: allegations of a state-sponsored doping system in Russia that seemingly escaped any notice until runner Yulia Stepanova blew the whistle on it.

Her claims left Russian athletes worried about whether they would be able to compete in Rio at all. The fact that they are - after the IOC decided against a blanket ban - is unlikely to boost the public‘s confidence in the sport world‘s anti-doping efforts.

But Budgett tried Monday to restore some trust.

He pointed to the fact that nearly 3,200 doping tests had been conducted since the opening of the athletes‘ village on July 24, comprising 2,701 urine tests, 191 blood tests and 296 biological passport controls.

There had also been testing before the start of the Games, with a special task force looking at hundreds of athletes who may have fallen through the doping cracks before.

Armed with the newest scientific methods, experts reanalyzed some 1,400 samples taken from athletes at the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Olympics, with 98 testing positive for illicit substances.

The samples taken at the Rio Olympics will be stored for 10 years and can also be retested later once there are new scientific advances. A new gene doping test is for instance expected to come online within months.

A host of security measures have been put in place at the laboratory doing the doping tests in Rio, which improved its methods ahead of the Games after its accreditation was temporarily suspended.

Budgett said he will personally review a month‘s worth of surveillance footage of the freezer were athletes‘ samples are kept, as part of efforts to prevent tampering.

"The quality of the testing here, I think, has been higher than ever before," he said.

"I‘m a medical man fundamentally and a scientist, so we always doubt everything," he added. "But I think it‘s really unfortunate if we just doubt every fantastic performance."

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