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China’s Lyu Xiaojun celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s 81kg weightlifting event the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: AP

China’s Olympic weightlifting champion Lyu Xiaojun suspended after positive doping test

  • Lyu became the oldest man to win Olympic gold in weightlifting when he claimed the 81kg title in Tokyo last year
  • Gold medallist tested positive for erythropoietin, a prohibited peptide hormone

China’s three-time Olympic champion Lyu Xiaojun has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance, the International Testing Agency (ITA) said on Thursday.

Lyu returned the positive sample during an out-of-competition test on October 30, said the ITA, which oversees the bulk of the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) anti-doping programme.

Lyu, who became the oldest man to win Olympic gold in weightlifting when he claimed the 81kg title in Tokyo last year, tested positive for erythropoietin, a prohibited peptide hormone.

Lyu was crowned world champion five times and won the London 2012 men’s 77kg and Tokyo 2020 men’s 81kg golds. He was also confirmed as the Rio 2016 men’s 77kg winner after Nijat Rahimov of Kazakhstan was stripped of the gold because of a doping violation.

A number of doping cases have been uncovered in the sport in recent years and in June former international weightlifting heads Tamas Ajan and Nicu Vlad were banned for life for covering up doping offences.

Chinese Olympians (left to right) Ma Long, Cui Xiaotong, Lyu Xiaojun, coach Wang Aimin, Sun Yiwen and Su Bingtian at an engagement session with students at PolyU and residents at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hung Hom in December 2021. Photo: May Tse

Lyu said in a statement that he was “greatly shocked” after being notified by the ITA.

“In the 24 years of my weightlifting career, I have competed in numerous major events and have been tested hundreds of times, without any ADRV (Anti-Doping Rule Violations),” he said.

“I have neither any motive nor any reason to use any prohibited substance or prohibited method in the final phase of my beloved weightlifting career. I will cooperate with related organisations for investigation, to find out the real cause of this issue, and to prove my innocence,” he added.

“As a senior athlete, I have always strictly abided by the anti-doping policies and regulations of the International Weightlifting Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the China Anti-Doping Agency.

“I believe that the value of sports lies in fair play and I resolutely oppose the use of any prohibited substance or prohibited method and any other kind of cheating, which is also the bottom line I have always set for myself.

“The use of a prohibited substances or prohibited methods is completely against my values and goes against the anti-doping education I have received.”

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According to the Chinese Weightlifting Association, since 2017, Chinese lifters have undergone more than 5,000 doping control tests for both in-competition and out-of-competition, the highest frequency in the world, without any ADRV.

“The Chinese Weightlifting Association has always pursued the goal of ‘zero appearance’ with a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude in the anti-doping endeavour,” the governing body said in a statement.

“We have noticed Lyu Xiaojun’s statement, and we believe that the International Testing Agency and the International Weightlifting Federation will find out the facts and make impartial decisions, cracking down on doping while protecting the legitimate rights of clean athletes.”

According to the ITA, Lyu Xiaojun has the right to request the analysis of the B-sample, and the prosecution of the case is being handled entirely by the organisation.