LONDON • Thailand's weightlifters face a ban from the Tokyo 2020 Games after six positive World Championships tests, with two from reigning Olympic champions.
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) caught them after carrying out extra tests on samples taken from "target athletes" at the Turkmenistan competition last November, when the South-east Asians finished second behind China in the medal tally.
More than half of the 600 athletes were tested but they came back negative.
The positives were uncovered after further analysis at the Cologne anti-doping laboratory in Germany by using "the most sophisticated available technique".
Any nation with three or more positives in a calendar year faces a ban of up to four years, and Thailand still has two further unresolved cases since December 2017.
Thailand is also the host of the 2019 World Championships but will have to withdraw if suspended.
The IWF said in a statement that it had suspended nine countries for repeated doping offences and it will not hesitate to do the same again.
The decision will rest with a new sanctioning panel comprising anti-doping experts and lawyers from the United States, Canada, Germany and New Zealand.
The first two of the Thai positives were announced on Dec 23.
They are Duanganksnorn Chaidee, the women's super-heavyweight bronze medallist, and Teerapat Chomchuen, the only men among the six.
The rest, named by the IWF on Wednesday, are Olympic gold medallists Sopita Tanasan (48kg) and Sukanya Srisurat (58kg), as well as Thunya Sukcharoen and Chitchanok Pulsabsakul.
Sukanya and Chitchanok were among seven Thai teen girls who were banned two years after being caught up in a 2011 doping scandal.
Earlier this month, the Thailand Amateur Weightlifting Federation (Tawa) celebrated its 60th anniversary with a visit to the IWF headquarters in Budapest where its president Boossaba Yodbangtoey spoke of the great strides made by the sport. Boossaba, also the general secretary of the Asian federation, was not available for comment.
Tawa said in a statement on social media that it was "greatly surprised and confused" by the new positives, and an internal inquiry had been launched. It added: "If it is found there are wrongdoers, they will be punished."
Weightlifting is effectively "on probation" at next year's Olympics owing to the doping problem, having been told its place on the Games schedule beyond then is under review.