ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Eight Turkish athletes, including an Olympic silver medalist hammer thrower, tested positive for banned substances at this month's European Team Championships in Gateshead, Turkish media reports said on Friday.
If confirmed, the test results would be a fresh blow for Turkish athletics after officials said last month 1,500 meters Olympics gold medalist Asli Cakir Alptekin faced a lifetime ban for an anti-doping offence.
Hammer thrower Esref Apak, who won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, was among the eight athletes who tested positive, according to Sabah newspaper and other media outlets.
The number of Turkish athletes who have tested positive in doping examinations this year has reached 24, Athletics Federation head Mehmet Terzi told reporters on Friday.
"Unfortunately there is an impression that athletes or coaches are being protected. No athlete or coach is being protected... Our approach to this issue has always been 'zero tolerance'," Terzi added.
"Despite our close monitoring, an athlete can do it if he's determined to do it. Whoever does it must be caught and punished," Terzi, a former medal-winning athlete, said.
Sabah said that including the latest eight, a total of 15 Turkish athletes had tested positive for illegal substances in the last month, potentially harming Istanbul's bid to stage the 2020 Olympics.
Separately, eight weightlifters were left out of the Turkish national squad ahead of this month's Mediterranean Games in the Turkish city of Mersin after testing positive for doping, according to Turkish media reports.
Among those who previously tested positive, Cakir was charged on the basis of abnormal blood values from her biological passport. She had previously been given a two-year ban in 2004 after a positive dope test at the world junior championships.
Double European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanit, also faces a ban after "multiple positive findings in both in-competition and out-of-competition tests," the International Association of Athletics Federations said last month.
(Writing by Daren Butler, editing by Justin Palmer)