Russia among five countries to have only two weightlifters at Tokyo 2020
At least five countries, including Russia and four other former Soviet states, are being restricted to just two weightlifters, one male and one female, each at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in retaliation for their poor anti-doping records in the sport.
A further nine countries, at least, including India, will be restricted to four weightlifters each, two men and two women, the International Weightlifting Federation has ruled, according to an exclusive report by Reuters.
Those already restricted to two each, on the basis that their weightlifters committed over 20 doping offences between 2008 and 2020, are: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus.
Those with four each, having committed between 10 and 19 offences over the period, include Bulgaria, Iran and India.
Further sanctions, including complete Olympic bans, could be imposed in the event of more offences before the games begin, the IWF said.
Countries with fewer than 10 offences over the period will have eight places each, divided equally between men and women.
Weightlifting’s overall quota of athletes had already been reduced by 64, including the elimination of an entire men’s weight class to create greater gender equality, at the Tokyo 2020 games.
Last month, the IWF claimed it was making great progress in its bid to convince the International Olympic Committee that it is doing all it can to clean up the sport.
The IWF is on watch that weightlifting could lose its place on the Olympic programme at Paris 2024 because of its doping problems.
Tamas Ajan, the IWF’s president, said: “To change culture, first you must have a sense of urgency. The IOC’s deadlines and our suspensions of member federations have created that urgency. Then you must have a clear vision of the culture you want. Weightlifting understands that this is a sport based on fair and clean performances. Changing culture also requires a broad coalition of people to make the change: working in partnership with the IOC, with WADA and the national anti-doping organisations, and with our own federations, coaches and athletes, we have this coalition also.
“All the ingredients for change have been put in place, so it is no surprise to see the change actually happening. I have complete confidence that the IWF can demonstrate this to the IOC’s satisfaction.”
The IOC executive board will meet next in May, when the IWF hopes it will receive positive feedback.
It was in June 2017 that weightlifting was told that its place in the Olympic Games beyond Tokyo 2020 could be at risk if the IWF did not deliver a “satisfactory” report to the IOC’s executive board on what IOC president Thomas Bach called the “massive doping problem” the sport is facing.
Bach said that the problem was “revealed once more by re-analysis of anti-doping tests” given by weightlifters at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where weightlifters produced 49 positive tests, resulting in the IOC stripping them of 29 medals.
Speaking of the latest restrictions, Attila Adamfi, the IWF’s director general, told Reuters: “Naturally not everybody is happy but everybody understands that the sport is in a difficult situation where hard decisions are necessary for our future.”