By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) - Four Latin American athletes have been kicked out of the Pan American Games for positive doping tests, the international organization which runs the quadrennial multi-sport competition said on Friday.
Mexican weightlifter Cinthya Vanessa Dominguez Lara and baseball players Nelson Gomez (Puerto Rico), Mario Mercedes Castillo (Dominican Republic) and Javier Jesus Ortiz Angulo (Colombia) all failed doping tests, according to the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO).
Three of the athletes tested positive for anabolic steroids while Mercedes Castillo used a banned stimulant.
As of Friday, PASO said 1,154 tests have been processed out of a total of the roughly 1,500 that were conducted, a rate it called similar to what is done at an Olympic Games, and the results were not alarming.
"It is a normal range, but we want to be clear that PASO is still very concerned about these positive results, and that we are taking it very seriously," PASO Vice President Ivar Sisniega told a news conference.
PASO, which represents 41 National Olympic Committees, said any sanctions for the four athletes will be determined by the international federations for their respective sports.
Eduardo De Rose, chairman of PASO's medical commission, said every major multi-sport event has doping violations but admitted it was surprising to see this many cases so early in the July 10-26 Games.
De Rose suggested that WADA's revised anti-doping code, which was implemented at the start of 2015, could explain the rate of positive tests.
"The medical commission is, in a certain way, surprised to have so many cases at the beginning of the Games, but the numbers will (ultimately) be more or less the same that we have at every Games," said De Rose.
"But we are working here under the new regulation of WADA so the controls are much harder than the controls that we had (for the 2011 Pan Ams in) Guadalajara."
The organization also said it could not yet comment on Peruvian swimmer Mauricio Fiol, who said earlier this week that he was kicked out of the Pan Am Games for doping.
Once an athlete fails a doping test, they have 48 hours to present any relevant evidence to defend themselves and request that a 'B' sample be opened.
"We will only comment on those cases where we have the final evidence, where the athlete has had the opportunity to clearly present his case," said Sisniega. "And only then does the PASO executive board make a decision."
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)