The rate of positive doping tests in South Korean sports reached a four-year low in 2012, the country's top anti-doping body said Tuesday.
The Korea Anti-Doping Agency said it conducted 2,830 tests last year and 15 athletes tested positive for illegal substances.
The KADA said it tested "B" samples for some athletes to confirm their doping. The positive test rate for 2012 came to 0.53 percent, the lowest since 0.49 percent in 2008. In 2011, the positive rate was 0.63 percent, out of 3,500 tests.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has said the global average rate of positive doping tests in 2011 was 2 percent. The KADA attributed the trend to heightened awareness among athletes. It said it could have deliberately tried to lower rates by not testing athletes in sports with typically high positive test rates, but instead it had more stringent tests on such athletes.
The 15 athletes came from seven sports, according to the KADA, and eight of them were bodybuilders. There were two football players, followed by one athlete each from weightlifting, equestrian, ice hockey, biathlon and roller sport.
Of the eight bodybuilders, one claimed to have taken medication to control high blood pressure, with no intent to violate doping rules, and received a three-month suspension.
Seven others, who tested positive for anabolic steroids, declined to have their B samples tested or chose not to appeal their results, according to the KADA.
The KADA considered their decision to be an admission of violation and imposed two-year competition bans on these bodybuilders.
One football player tested positive for a diuretic, prescribed by a weight-loss clinic, and another flunked his test for substances found in his cold medication.
Diuretics can help athletes lose weight and can also be a masking agent for anabolic steroids or stimulants. In a high-profile case, middleweight boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. of Mexico tested positive for a diuretic in 2009.
The KADA urged athletes to take extra caution in taking dietary supplements from overseas that haven't been approved by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
The KADA conducts random tests on medalists at the National Sports Festival or other national competitions in different sports. It also does random out-of-competition tests.