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Velichko Cholakov dies; former European weightlifting champ was 35

Bulgaria's Velichko Cholakov, seen above at the 2004

Bulgaria's Velichko Cholakov, seen above at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, did not compete in 2008's Beijing Olympics after he tested positive for a banned substance. Credit: AP / CHARLES KRUPA

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Velichko Cholakov, a former European champion who was part of the Bulgarian weightlifting team withdrawn from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after a doping scandal, has died. He was 35.

Hospital officials in Cholakov’s hometown of Smolyan, southern Bulgaria, said that the cause of his death on Aug. 20, has yet to be confirmed. Local media reports said Cholakov, who won gold at the European championships in 2004, had been suffering from heart problems.

Cholakov also won bronze in the over 105 kg-category at the Athens 2004 Olympics and silver at the world championships in 2003.

The Bulgarian team was withdrawn from the Beijing Olympics after Cholakov and 10 other team members tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid.

Cholakov was currently training young weightlifters in his hometown.

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