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Indian lifter pleads innocent of doping charge

Aug. 06, 2008, 9:13 a.m. (ET)

NEW DELHI(AP) Stopped from boarding the flight to Beijing after testing positive for a banned substance, Indian weightlifter Monika Devi on Wednesday said she was innocent.

Devi, India's lone entry in the Olympic weightlifting competition, told reporters she had been selected for the Olympics because of her clean record.

``I'm innocent. I've always stayed away from illegal substances, and that's why I was picked in the selection trials,'' said Devi, who was not permitted to board the flight to the Chinese capital Tuesday night.

``Shoot me if I'm guilty. Everyone knows there are stringent tests in international competitions and no sensible athlete would resort to doping.''

Devi said she had been framed by officials who wanted another woman weightlifter to compete in the Olympics.

The Press Trust of India reported Tuesday that Devi tested positive for an anabolic substance in a test conducted by the Sports Authority of India on June 29.

Indian Olympic contingent's leader Baljit Singh Sethi confirmed Wednesday that Devi's entry had been withdrawn.

``I can confirm that Monika will not be taking part in the games,'' PTI quoted Sethi as saying from Beijing.

``We are actually relieved it happened before she reached Beijing,'' Sethi said.

Devi's failed doping test is the fourth by an Indian weightlifter since May.

Junior male weightlifter Harpreet Singh tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone last month, while Kavita Devi and Paritosh Upadhyay failed doping tests in May.

Kavita Devi was sent back from the Asian women's championship in Japan after the Weightlifting Federation of India was informed of her positive doping test result by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which had collected an out-of-competition sample.

Upadhyay tested positive in an out-of-competition test conducted by the Sports Authority of India, which also caught Singh during his training program.

Repeated doping violations by Indian weightlifters have led India to be banned twice from international competitions since the 2004 Olympics in Athens.