LAUSANNE: More than 30 male and female competitors from six sports could be banned from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following a new sweep of ‘follow-up’ testing of samples from the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The International Olympic Committee said in March that it was retesting hundreds of doping samples from 2008 in the hope of identifying potential drug cheats before they can compete in Rio de Janeiro.

Some 454 selected samples from Beijing 2008 have been rechecked after cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the international federations.

They were focused on athletes who could potentially start at Rio 2016. As a result up to 31 athletes from six sports could be banned from competing at this year’s Olympics.

The IOC executive board has initiated proceedings immediately, with the 12 National Olympic Committees concerned due to be informed imminently.

All athletes found to have breached anti-doping rules will be banned from competing in Rio. The IOC said for legal reasons it cannot give more detailed information on the cases at present.

The IOC added that 250 more results from retesting of samples from the 2012 Games in London 2012 will follow shortly, while it is undertaking a wider re-testing programme of medallists from Beijing and London.

The samples of those athletes who could be awarded medals following the disqualification of others will also be retested.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “These measures are a powerful strike against the cheats we do not allow to win. They show once again that dopers have no place to hide.

“We keep samples for 10 years so that the cheats know that they can never rest. By stopping so many doped athletes from participating in Rio we are showing once more our determination to protect the integrity of the Olympic competitions, including the Rio anti-doping laboratory, so that the Olympic magic can unfold in Rio de Janeiro.”

Blood and urine samples from each Olympics are stored so advances in testing methods can be harnessed for reanalysis years later. The statute of limitations was last year extended from eight to 10 years meaning samples from Beijing 2008 remain valid through to 2018.

** The IOC has said that “swift and decisive action” will be taken in the wake of the controversy surrounding the anti-doping laboratory in Sochi for Russia’s staging of the 2014 winter Olympics.

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, has claimed that he provided dozens of Russian athletes with banned substances as part of a state-run doping programme during Sochi 2014.