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Culture

Germans on Medal-Winning Streak

The German team has already clinched 47 medals at the ongoing 12th Paralympic Games in Athens which has drawn disabled athletes from 140 different countries and now also witnessed a doping scandal.

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German shooters Schmermund, left, and Brogle display their medals

Five days after the opening of the Paralympic Games in Athens, which has some 4,000 disabled athletes from 140 countries competing not only each other but also against the limits imposed by illness or accident and against lingering prejudices, a doping scandal has thrown a pall on the event.

On Thursday, two weightlifters from Azerbaijan, Gundus Ismailow and Sara Abasowa who were to compete in the men’s 90 kilogram and the women’s 82,5 kilogram events respectively, tested positive during training checks. Since the two are repeat offenders, having tested positive in the past, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has banned them for life from the Games.

Paralympics in Athen

The ancient Parthenon is illuminated behind a Paralympic Games banner in central Athens.

So far the International Paralympics Committee has carried out around half of around 700 planned doping controls. It tests for all substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency -- the same agency that sets rules for the Olympics.

"The positive tests show that the targeting of forbidden drugs in weightlifting works," said IPC spokeswoman Wilkens.

The head of the German team, Karl Quade, said that Paralympic athletes, just like those at the Olympics, had to follow the rules.

"In Germany we have several drugs tests, around 250 in the last 20 months," Quade said. "It's good that here even athletes from other countries are being intensively tested."

"Historic" win

Despite the first doping cases, the biggest ever games for disabled athletes in Athens are turning out to be a huge success. Just like in the Olympics last month this is especially true for the Chinese camp whose athletes have already won 80 medals. China currently leads the medal ranking followed by Australia and Britain.

Paralympics in Athen

Samina Berri from Tunisia, left, competes in the final of Women's 800 meters category T54 on Wednesday.

Germany is in fourth place, thanks to athletes like Wojtek Czyz, who on Tuesday won gold in what is one of the Paralympics main events: He ran the 100-meter men’s sprint final in 12.51 seconds.

Czyz, whose one leg has been amputated and who originally wanted to become a professional soccer player, was considered one of the favorites for the run on Sunday.

"I thank everyone who believed in me, particularly the 1. FC Kaiserlautern (German soccer club) who organized a benefit game for me," the 24-year-old Czyz said after his victory.

Quade described Czyz's win as "historic."

"That's (the 100-meter sprint) the king of disciplines that we've never won until now," Quade said. "We're on the right track. It shows that the top team obviously works."

German top team in winning form

The top team includes athletes who were considered to have good potential of winning several medals and were especially trained before the Games began.

Paralympics 2004

Proteas, the mascot of the Athens 2004 Paralympics.

The efforts paid off this week when Thomas Loosch won his second medal in discus throw after a silver in shot put.

The Germans also clinched medals in the 100-meter sprint with the visually-impaired Berliner sprinter Thomas Schröder taking bronze for his 11-minute dash. Just minutes later, the partially paralyzed Isabelle Foerder took bronze in the 200-meter sprint.

The German medal haul continued in swimming with Kirsten Bruhn from the top team winning silver in the 100-meter backstroke, Daniel Clausner took bronze in the 100-meter freestyle and Natalie Ball won bronze and with it her second medal at the Games in the 200-meter in the individual medley.

However, the Germans had to go empty-handed in fencing and tennis.

Acknowledging the huge achievements of disabled athletes German President Horst Köhler, who was present at the opening ceremonies of the Paralympics, promised to increase support for them.

"We have to give more assistance to these athletes when it comes to training opportunities as well as for their families," he said. "We want them to understand that society is on their side."

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