ATHENS, Greece – Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis (search) was stripped of his bronze medal Sunday for a doping offense, another embarrassment for the host nation.
It was the first medal to be stripped from an athlete in Athens (search) because of doping.
Sampanis, who won a bronze medal in the 137-pound (62kg) category Monday after taking silver at the previous two Olympics, was disqualified by the International Olympic Committee (search) executive board.
On Saturday, Sampanis protested his innocence.
"Honestly, I can say that for the last 10 years, the time that I have been a weightlifter, I never used this kind of drug. I want to say to the Greek people that I swear to God and on my two children I never used this kind of drug," he said as he cried. "I want you to believe me. I want you to stand by me."
The decision was another huge blow for Greece, just four days after top sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou pulled out of the games in a scandal over missed drug tests.
Sampanis, 32, tested positive for twice the allowed amount of testosterone, the IOC said. Doctors established that the testosterone came from outside the body.
Nine weightlifters, including Sampanis, have failed drug tests.
Because of the IOC decision, the fourth-place finisher, Venezuela's Israel Jose Rubio Rivero, was awarded the bronze. The gold and silver medals went to Chinese weightlifters Shi Zhiyong and Le Maosheng.
The IOC expelled Sampanis from the games and ordered the Greek Olympic Committee to return the medal immediately. Any other sanctions, including a ban, will be decided by the International Weightlifting Federation.
Greek Olympic committee officials said they do not comment on IOC decisions.