In a major doping crackdown, the International Olympic Committee has opened disciplinary proceedings against 31 unidentified athletes from 12 countries who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games and were about to take part in the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.

The IOC made the announcement after retesting of drug samples from the 2008 Beijing Games. The IOC remarked the positive cases from the Beijing Games emerged from the recent retesting of 454 doping samples with the very latest scientific analysis methods. In a statement, the IOC said it would not immediately identify the athletes caught for legal reasons but would inform the relevant national Olympic committees in the coming days.

The International Olympic Committee added all those athletes infringing anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Olympic Games in Rio. It also commented that retesting results of 250 samples from the London Olympics will be announced shortly and commented samples of athletes who would be promoted to medals following disqualification of drug cheats will also be retested.

The IOC urged the World Anti-Doping Agency to initiate a “fully-fledged investigation” into recent allegations that the Sochi drug-testing system was subverted by Russian officials.

IOC President Thomas Bach said this is a powerful strike against athletes who dope and added this shows once again that dopers have no place to hide. The International Olympic Committee is also planning to reanalyze drug tests from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after allegations were made by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, that samples were tampered with as part of a state-sponsored Russian doping program.

Rodchenkov admitted he worked for many years at the direction of the government of Russia to assist top athletes of the country to use banned, performance-enhancing substances and go undetected. Rodchenkov said athletes of Russia had doped before the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games and throughout the course of the 2014 Sochi Games. Rodchenkov described an overnight operation in which he along with a small team had substituted tainted urine of Russian athletes for clear urine. The urine samples were stockpiled in the months leading to competition and later were passed on surreptitiously through a hole in the wall of the lab building. Rodchenkov later wrote a letter to WADA and the IOC and offer to guide investigators in their scrutiny of samples of Russian athletes from the Sochi Games to verify his account. Rodchenkov added the samples would show no traces of banned drugs but the table salt he added to the urine samples in question, to mask certain inconsistencies would be good to confirm his story.

The International Olympic Committee stores samples for a period of ten years to allow for retesting with improved techniques and athletes who are found guilty of doping face retroactive disqualification and loss of any medals. It remarked the Lausanne anti-doping lab and World Anti-Doping Agency would be asked to proceed with analyzing Sochi samples in the most sophisticated and efficient way possible. However, it is still not clear how many samples are still intact for reliable retesting.

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