Beijing • China's anti-doping agency says eight athletes have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs in the run-up to the country's key national sports competition.
The athletes represented a variety of sports and were split evenly between men and women. They included one caught via the biological passport program that monitors an athlete's blood profile over time to detect signs of doping.
The new cases detected in the second quarter of the year bring the 2013 total to 12, equal to the number of doping cases found in the whole of last year.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted China Anti-Doping Agency chief He Zhenwen as saying the large number of second-quarter cases was likely a result of the coming of the prestigious national games that kick off Aug. 31.
"There always will be someone who risks doping for unfair advantage when the return is lucrative," He was quoted as saying. "History taught us that the national games could well be the reason for cheating."
The competition is held once every four years and winning performers can reap rewards from provincial, city or army teams even more valuable than those offered in international competition.
Standout performers also have a greater chance of making it onto national teams, further increasing the inducement for athletes and coaches to seek unfair advantage. China struggled with rampant doping in the 1990s, but turned a corner with the 2000 Sydney Olympics and in recent years has largely eliminated the problem at the international level.