MINSK — Belarus women rowers Natalia Lavrenenko and Natalia Stasyuk, who have received life bans after testing positive for anabolic steroids, could be stripped of the bronze medals they won at the 1996 Olympics.

Lavrenenko, 23, tested positive for metabolites of epimetendiol while Stasyuk, 31, was found to have metabolites of methyl testosterone.

Both were part of the Belarus women’s eight four years ago in Atlanta and were hoping to compete at this year’s Sydney Olympics. They deny having knowingly taken any banned substance.

‘If proven guilty, they will be subject of the harshest punishment at our disposal,’ Belarus Deputy Sports Minister Alexander Grigorov told Reuters.

‘We just don’t want any of our athletes, especially our Olympic athletes, to be associated with doping.

‘Both of them categorically deny having knowingly taken any drugs. So we have decided to carry out our own tests and if the results are confirmed, they will not only be banned for the rest of their athletic careers but also stripped of all their athletic honours as well.’

A spokesman for the International Rowing Federation (FISA), the sport’s governing body which imposed the life bans, said on Sunday that Lavrenenko and Stasyuk can only appeal to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Cuban rower Giovany Solo Lopez was also banned for life on Sunday after testing positive for metabolites of nandrolone at a training camp in Mexico City.

He was a member of the Cuban quadruple scull which has already qualified for the Sydney Games.

Reuters

Source: SOCOG