2020 Summer Olympics

China banned from weightlifting for a year as chiefs find ‘incidence of doping totally unacceptable’

Decision by the International Weightlifting Federation follows the retesting of anti-doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 11:03am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 October, 2017, 11:03am

China has been suspended from weightlifting for a year in an attempt to combat an epidemic of doping.

The sport has been under pressure to clean up or face being dropped from the Olympics.

The decision by the International Weightlifting Federation followed the retesting of anti-doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Countries with at least three doping offences from those Olympics were suspended.

Three Chinese athletes were this year stripped of their 2008 Olympic gold medals following retests of samples from the Beijing Games.

Cao Lei, the 75-kilogram champion, Chen Xiexia, the 48kg gold medallist, and Liu Chunhong, who won the 69kg category, were stripped of their titles.

The trio, all aged between 31 and 34, tested positive for the banned GHRP-2, a human growth hormone.

The IWF started pursuing the suspensions before last year’s Olympics, but the process was held up by legal challenges.

Also suspended were Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine.

“We have made it clear that the incidence of doping in some areas is totally unacceptable and that our members have a responsibility to ensure clean sport in their countries,” IWF president Tamas Ajan said.

“If they do not fulfil their responsibilities to ensure their lifters are clean then they will lose their right to participate.

“But we will not turn our backs on them; we will continue to work with them, (the World Anti-Doping Agency), and their national anti-doping agencies to support their anti-doping activities and help make cultural change.”

The suspensions could mean a drastically weakened world championships, from November 28 to December 6 in Anaheim, California.

The IWF said there wouldn’t be any exceptions from the ban to allow individual athletes from the suspended countries to compete, regardless of whether they’ve ever failed a drug test.

Athletics has allowed some athletes from Russia to compete as independents during its ban from that sport for systemic doping.

“The countries will receive official notification about the suspension mid-October and at the IWF there is no possibility to compete as neutral or independent,” IWF spokeswoman Lilla Rozgonyi said.

It’s not the first time the IWF has kicked countries out of major competitions for doping.

Bulgaria and Russia were both barred from last year’s Olympics – Bulgaria after eight of its athletes tested positive for steroids ahead of the European championships, Russia after Wada accused it of widespread drug use and cover-ups.

In June, the International Olympic Committee warned weightlifting to do more to fight doping or risk being cut from the 2024 Paris Games.

IOC president Thomas Bach demanded the IWF “address the massive doping problem” and report back by December.

There have been more than 50 failed tests in weightlifting from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics combined, putting it second only to athletics, which had many more competitors.

In some weightlifting events, all three original medallists were disqualified.

The men’s 94-kilogram category from the 2012 Olympics saw seven lifters fail retests, putting the original ninth-place finisher in line for an upgrade to bronze.

Those banned include some of the sport’s biggest stars, such as Ilya Ilyin from Kazakhstan, a four-time world lifter of the year who was stripped of his 2008 and 2012 gold medals for taking anabolic steroids.