By Jonathan Rest in Istanbul
Istanbul 2020, the Turkish city's bid to host the Olympic Games, said the national sports authorities have a "zero-tolerance policy" on doping cheats, amid the revelation that the country's Olympic women's 1500 metres champion Cakir Alptekin potentially faces a second ban from athletics.
The IAAF, track and field's governing body, announced on Friday that blood "abnormalities" were discovered during biological passport testing.
Alptekin, who won a gold medal at London 2012, ahead of her compatriot Gamze Bulut, was banned for two years back in 2004 following a positive test at the World Junior Championships. If the second positive test is confirmed in two weeks' time, she could face a lifetime ban.
The news came at the worst possible time for Istanbul 2020, with the International Olympic Committee's evaluation committee beginning its four-day inspection of the city's hosting credentials on Sunday.
In a bid to prevent the doping issue overshadowing the visit, Istanbul 2020 said in a statement: "This speculation has not been confirmed by the relevant authorities, so therefore it is not appropriate to comment further on this matter. But of course we take the subject of doping in sport very seriously as doping is a major issue worldwide and Turkey is ready to play its part to stamp it out.
"Turkey has a zero-tolerance policy on cheats and they have no place in our Olympic story. Any athlete found to have cheated will be punished to the full extent of Turkey’s strict anti-doping legislation, other laws and in accordance with international anti-doping practices."
After winning Olympic gold Alptekin claimed it was "Turkish power" that resulted in the one-two in the 1500m, but the IAAF confirmed on Friday that a number of possible doping cases relating to Turkish athletes were under investigation.
An IAAF spokesman said: "It's a biological passport case. It's not finalised yet but we know it's a positive case. Immediately after the London Olympic Games we discovered abnormalities. We have seen big abnormalities and it is not the only case from Turkey. More are coming."
Istanbul 2020 will want to see the matter addressed quickly, particularly as rival bid city Madrid was warned last week that doping issues could jeopardise its campaign.
Various doping scandals in Spain, including the so-called Operación Puerto case, have led to questions over the country’s willingness to combat the issue, and Miguel Cardenal, Spain’s secretary of state for sport, told the evaluation commission last week that a new law to finally bring anti-doping regulation in the country in line with the World Anti-Doping Code will be enacted before September’s vote to decide the host of the Olympics.
Sir Craig Reedie, head of the IOC evaluation commission for the 2020 games, said on Thursday, at the end of the Madrid inspection: “We were told by the experts that a new law has been approved by the Spanish cabinet and it will be passed by parliament no later than June this year. I rely absolutely on their promise.”
The 14-member commission was welcomed to Istanbul today by Turkish president Abdullah Gül, who emphasised the full political support the bid enjoys.
Gül said: "We are a proud nation. We are a welcoming nation. We are a nation built on international trade and on commitments kept. When the eyes of the world are on Turkey, we will keep our promises. As you hear the presentations and see the venues, I hope you will remember these words: the Turkish government, and prime minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, personally, are totally committed to Istanbul’s bid and to delivering everything we promised in our candidature. We have a history of delivering on our promises, and we will deliver on our commitment to you."
The president was joined at the opening session by: Suat Kılıç, Turkey’s sports minister; Hasan Arat, chairman of Istanbul 2020; Ugur Erdener, IOC member and president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey; and the mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş.