By Duncan Mackay

Eşref Turkish hammer throwerAugust 5 - More than 30 athletes were suspended today by the Turkish Athletics Federation (TAF) as the country's drugs crisis deepened.

But Uğur Erdener, President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, claimed that the banning of 31 athletes for two years, who included hammer thrower Eşref Apak, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, marked a watershed in the country's fight against doping.

"The list of 31 Turkish athletes who have been suspended for doping violations, released today by the Turkish Athletics Federation, is a clear signal of how seriously Turkey is taking the global issue of doping," said Erdener.

"The athletes were found to be in violation of Turkey's strict anti-doping laws following testing undertaken by the Turkish Anti-Doping Duthority (TADA).

"TADA conducted the tests either as part of their own anti-doping programmes, or in conjunction with the IAAF (international Association of Athletics Federation) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).

"This work is part of a concerted, and much more aggressive, anti-doping policy in Turkey that has been in place for over six months and will be further reinforced with the re-accreditation of the WADA licenced anti-doping laboratory in Ankara later this year."

Lamine Diack with Mayor of IstanbulIAAF President Laimine Diack, pictured with Kadir Topbaş, the Mayor of Istanbul, has warned the doping scandals could damage the city's bid to host the 2020 Olympics

Last week IAAF President Lamine Diack had told insidethegames that Turkey needed to "clean their house" if its doping problem was not to affect Istanbul's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Diack's condemnation led to TAF President Mehmet Terzi resigning.

A replacement for Terzi is due to be chosen at an Extraordinary Congress of the TAF in Ankara tomorrow.

"I look forward to working closely with the new incoming chairman of Turkish athletics who I will expect to aggressively seek out and expel all athletes who cheat using performance-enhancing drugs," said Erdener, a member of the WADA Executive Board.

"This will be supported by an intensive education programme aimed at athletes and their entourages, and students in schools and colleges across Turkey.

"Led by the Turkish Government, Turkey has zero-tolerance for doping and it is our intention to have clean, young athletes competing on the international sporting stage in the future."

The suspensions do not include Aslı Çakır Alptekin, the Olympic 1500 metres champion, two-time defending European champion 100m hurdler Nevin Yanıt, and Pinar Saka, a member of the Turkish 4x400m relay team who won silver medals at the 2011 Universiade in Shenzhen, whose cases are still being reviewed.

Nevin Yanıt with Turkish flagTwo-time European 100m hurdles champion Nevin Yanıt is facing a two-year drugs ban

"The files of Asli Cakir Alptekin, Nevin Yanit and Pinar Saka were not assessed because the process of investigation following their defence statements is continuing," the TAF said in a statement.

But least three of the 31 new suspensions, including Apak, were in Turkey's team at London 2012.

The TAF listed all 31 athletes' names without specifying details of their doping violations or dates of their suspensions from competing.

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