Olympics: Weightlifting faces 'painful' few months with spate of positive dope tests

Izzat Artykov of Kyrgyzstan, who tested positive after a doping exam, competing during the men's 69kg category of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Aug 9, 2016.
Izzat Artykov of Kyrgyzstan, who tested positive after a doping exam, competing during the men's 69kg category of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Aug 9, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) may need a painkiller to get over the next few months, as it moves to ban several countries over doping and tries to change a culture of drug taking.

The sport has long been afflicted by high-profile positive tests for illegal substances and one medallist from the Rio Olympics has already been stripped of his podium finish for doping.

Kyrgyzstan's Izzat Artykov won bronze in the 69kg contest but later tested positive for the stimulant strychnine, becoming the first Olympian from the Brazil Games to have a medal revoked.

He claimed that a rival competitor had spiked his drink and said he would appeal against the decision but the ruling meant that the weightlifting competition ended under a familiar doping cloud.

Eleven weightlifters who previously served doping bans, including three gold medallists, won medals at Rio, while four others were sent home for failed tests before they were due to compete.

Another, Chagnaadorj Usukhbayar, a Mongolian weightlifter who did not threaten the 56kg podium, also failed a dope test, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced on Sunday.

The IWF is cracking down on doping. In June, it adopted a resolution that said any country which returns three or more positive drugs tests from the re-analysis of samples from the last two Olympics would be suspended for a year.

The governing body plans to ban Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and several other nations for 12 months from around September or October for doping violations stemming from the 2008 and 2012 Games.

"We had to react. It will be very painful for me to suspend some countries but we will do this," IWF president Tamas Ajan told AFP in an interview last week.

"We wish weightlifting to be a clean sport and there's only one way. We have to ban all the countries which violate our rules," the 77-year-old added.

Ajan said the suspensions would be just "the start", but added that there was a twin approach to the problem that included educating as well as punishing countries and athletes.

"Not only do we suspend countries but we also organise many anti-doping seminars to help them. We give assistance so they can change completely," he explained.

The Hungarian has a fight on his hands however.

"Unfortunately there are some countries who use forbidden substances as a part of their training programme," he said, pointing the finger at some former Soviet republics.

By the time Tokyo 2020 comes around, the IWF does not want to be in a situation similar to the one it is in now, where medallists are being retrospectively stripped of medals following re-analysis of samples.

"Improved laboratory techniques have created a situation where the sport can get cleaner and cleaner," said Ajan.

"The next two years are a very, very sensitive period," he added.