Positive dope tests from the Bulgarian men's and women's weightlifting teams, which have already withdrawn from the Beijing Olympics, have been confirmed, the national federation said Wednesday.

‘We received a letter from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) confirming that our athletes' B-samples also contained the banned anabolic steroid metandienon,’ federation chief Anton Kodzhabashev told AFP.

The IWF was expected to meet during or after the Olympics to decide which sanctions to impose on the Bulgarian athletes and the federation as a whole, he added.

The Bulgarian teams already withdrew from the Games in late June after the A-samples of all 11 athletes on the preliminary squad tested positive for the banned substance.

Bulgaria was due to take six men and two women to Beijing.

The athletes now risk bans of between two and four years, while the federation may be kept out of all major events over the next four years, Kodzhabashev said Wednesday.

‘The federation might avoid a ban altogether if we pay the fine to be imposed by the IWF, and I will plead for us to do that,’ Kodzhabashev said.

But the athletes will be given sanctions, he added.

Three athletes, Georgy Markov, Alan Tsagaev and Gergana Kirilova, risk life bans as this is their second doping offence, press reports said.

Bulgaria has had a reputation for turning out good weightlifters since communist times.

But the country has experienced major doping scandals in recent years, its weightlifting teams having to withdraw from both the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney after the athletes tested positive for banned substances.

This latest doping case however is the first time the whole Bulgarian team has pulled out ahead of the Games.