SAO PAULO -- Former Olympic weightlifting champion Galabin Boevski of Bulgaria was convicted of international drug trafficking and sentenced to nine years, four months in prison.
The judge from a federal court in Sao Paulo announced the sentencing Thursday, nearly five months after Boevski was detained at the city's international airport and accused of trying to leave the country with 16 pounds of cocaine "worth nearly $500,000" in Europe. He was also fined nearly $10,000.
Boevski won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 152-pound category. He also won world titles in the category in 1999 and 2001. He was banned for eight years by the International Weightlifting Federation for doping in 2004.
Brazilian police allegedly found the drug hidden in a fake bottom inside Boevski's luggage while he tried to board a flight on Oct. 25. His destination was Sofia, Bulgaria.
Boevski's lawyer, Leandro Pereira, told Bulgaria's TV7 channel the sentence will be appealed. Boevski was facing a 15-year prison sentence for the international drug trafficking charges.
Judge Maria Isabel do Prado ruled that Boevski tried to "take advantage of his status of a sports celebrity" to commit the crime. She also that he used his young daughter's participation at a tennis tournament in Brazil as a way to try to disguise his actions.
The 37-year-old Boevski has denied wrongdoing. He had told authorities the cocaine was unknowingly hidden inside a suitcase he bought in Brazil after his original luggage was damaged.
Authorities said they didn't believe him, saying a drug trafficker would not "abandon" 16 pounds of cocaine in a suitcase put up for sale. Prosecutors said that in Europe, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine is worth about $70,000.
"By the defendant's version, 'someone' would've abandoned a fortune of more than half a million dollars in suitcases randomly put up for sale without reasonable explanation," prosecutors said.
Police initially said that 20 pounds of cocaine were found, but later tests showed that the amount allegedly being carried by Boevski was 16 pounds.
"It would have been impossible for the defendant not to notice the suitcase's weight when he 'purchased' it," the judge wrote.
The court said that by allegedly having the drug with him and by trying to leave the country there was enough evidence to characterize the crime as international drug trafficking.
"The amount of drug found and the location where the drug was found made it clear that it was not going to be used for personal use, but instead was being transported for commercial means," the judge said.