LONDON - The IOC will hold hearings early next month for the five athletes whose doping samples came back positive in retests from the 2004 Athens Olympics, the final step that could lead to the stripping of several medals.

Five samples came back positive earlier this year when the International Olympic Committee reanalyzed about 100 Athens samples in a bid to catch any drug cheats who avoided detection at the time. Retested backup "B" samples confirmed positive findings.

Ivan Tskikhan of Belarus, who won the silver medal in the hammer throw in Athens, was publicly identified by the Belarus Olympic Committee as among those caught in the retests. The IOC has not identified the others involved.

German public broadcaster ARD yesterday identified them as Ukrainian shot put gold medalist Yuriy Bilonog and three bronze medalists - women's shot putter Svetlana Krivelyova of Russia; Belarus discus thrower Irina Yatchenko and weightlifter Oleg Perepechenov of Russia.