By Nick Butler 

Nadzeya Ostapchuk celebrating after winning the shot put gold medal at London 2012 ©AFP/Getty ImagesApril 3 - Belarussian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk has been handed a four-year ban by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rather than a life ban because she was notified of her two failed drugs tests at the same time. 

Ostapchuk initially won the gold medal at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki before finishing runner-up behind arch-rival Valerie Adams of New Zealand at both the 2007 and 2011 Championships in Osaka and Daegu respectively, and in third place in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

But in 2012 she showed remarkably improved form to win the London Olympics ahead of Adams, before being stripped of her title after it emerged she failed a drugs test for the anabolic steroid metenolone.

Several months later, the Belarussian was among six positive retests of frozen samples from the 2005 World Championships and was stripped of that title as well, and handed a one-year suspension by the Belarus Athletics Federation after her coach claimed she had spiked her coffee.

The IAAF decided to extend this ban but, because Ostapchuk had been notified of both failed tests at the same time, she was not subjected to the life ban usually given to athletes who have failed tests twice. 

The four-year for the 33-year-old Ostapchuk has been back-dated and the suspension is due run out on August 14, 2016.

This comes three days into the athletics competition at Rio 2016 but she will not be able to compete there as she will not have a qualifying mark.  

Valerie Adams received her gold medal in Auckland following the Games...and recently continued her success by winning the World Indoor Championships in Sopot ©Getty ImagesValerie Adams received her gold medal in Auckland following the Games...and recently continued her success by winning the World Indoor Championships in Sopot
©Getty Images

The length of the ban has been strongly criticised in New Zealand, where Sports Minister Murray McCully called it ''weak'' and ''an appalling signal'' in the global fight against drugs in sport.

But it has been supported by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) director general David Howman who claimed the IAAF had followed the correct procedures.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand today, Howman added that a new code coming into force next year will hand out heavier penalties and would overcome this loophole.

Speaking through her manager, Adams expressed her surprise at the decision because she had expected her former rival to receive a life ban.

The IAAF are yet to respond to insidethegames' request for more clarification, but the decision was announced on their website as part of a list of athletes who have recently received suspensions. 

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September 2012: Disgraced Belarus shot putter escapes with one year ban after coach "admits" spiking her coffee
August 2012: Olympic shot put champion stripped of gold medal after testing positive for drugs