7th July 2021

How the IWF’s Tokyo 2020 quota reallocation punishes athletes

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has reallocated 12 quota places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, after sanctions were issued to the Colombian, Turkish, and Vietnamese federations. However, by requiring these federations to withdraw athletes who had qualified for the Games, potentially innocent athletes are being punished for the actions of others.

The IWF rules allow it to sanction member federations if three or more ADRVs are discovered in a year…

Under Article 12 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules, the IWF can suspend or fine a member federation if three or more athletes or officials from that federation are found to have committed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) during a calendar year. Under Article 4 of the IWF Olympic Qualification System (OQS), quota places can also be withdrawn.


The IWF can withdraw quota places for multiple ADRVs…

Ana Segura, Yenny Sinisterra, and Jean Felipe Arboleda reported adverse analytical findings (AAFs – or ‘positive tests’) for Boldenone at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games. All three were sanctioned with four year bans by the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s Anti-Doping Division (CAS ADD) on 10 June 2021, which didn’t accept their defence of meat contamination. They therefore cannot compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, the IWF OQS also allows it to also withdraw quota places (see right) as a result of these ADRVs.

The IWF has cut five of Colombia’s eight Tokyo 2020 quota places. This means that Rosivie Silgado (-59kg), Leydi Solís (-76kg), Valeria Rivas (-87kg), Francisco Mosquera (-61kg), and Jhonatan Rivas (-96kg) will not be able to compete at Tokyo 2020, despite no evidence existing that these athletes have done anything wrong. Colombia will be represented by Mercedes Pérez in the -64kg category; and by Luis Javier Mosquera in the -61kg category and Brayan Rodallegas in the -81kg category.


Earlier this month, an ITA Report highlighted how Hasan Akkus, President of the Turkish weightlifting federation (THF) had changed the responsible result management authority from the IWF to the THF in a case involving 17 lifters who returned AAFs in 2012. The ITA found that this was to avoid the THF being sanctioned under Article 12 of the IWF ADR.

Further rules on removal of Olympic quota places for multiple ADRVs…

‘Considering these ADRVs are deemed as international level cases, the TWF has reached 32 ADRVs during the period from 8 August 2008 until 22 July 2021, which means that the Member Federation is only eligible to qualify one 1 male and 1 female for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 pursuant to Article 3 of the IWF OQS’, reads an ITA statement. In practice, this means that Feri Hardal will not be able to compete in the -61kg category, due to the actions of Akkus. Turkey will be represented by Nuray Levent in the -64kg category; and by Muhammed Furkan Özbek in the -67kg category.


The case against Vietnam involved four lifters that were sanctioned for ADRVs during the 1 November 2018 to 22 July 2021 Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification period. An ITA Decision reveals that the four lifters – Thi Phuong Thahn Nguyen, Van Vinh Trinh, Thi Thu Trang Nguyen, and Dinh Sang Bui – were sanctioned with four year bans, so will miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The VWF indicated that it only intends to take up three quota places…

As a result, the IWF has withdrawn six of eight quota places available to Vietnamese lifers. Due to the above four sanctions, the Weightlifting Federation of Vietnam (WFV) told the ITA that it only intended to take up three of the eight quota places available to it (see right). As the IWF has now reduced this quota allocation to two places, Thi Huyen Vuong (-48kg) will miss out on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, despite no evidence she has done anything wrong. Vietnam will be represented by Thi Duyen Hoang (-59kg) and Kim Tuan Thach (-56kg).

Punishing the athletes

The revocation of Olympic qualification spots illustrates the difficulties that international sporting federations face in punishing their members for multiple doping violations. It is unlikely that those who drafted the IWF’s rules intended to punish innocent athletes, but that is what has occurred. If you suspend a member federation for offences committed by officials or even for multiple ADRVs, then you face accusations that you are punishing innocent athletes for offences committed by other people. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) faced a similar conundrum when attempting to punish Russia for subverting the doping control process. This is why World Athletes chose to suspend the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), but allow Russian athletes who could prove they were clean to compete internationally. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) took a similar route ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics. The IWF could have followed this lead.

However, although the situation is similar, it isn’t the same. The Russian State had subverted the doping control system. In weightlifting’s case, the international federation was corrupt, and allowed national federations to sidestep doping sanctions. 

Those accused of corruption have not resigned. They have stepped aside while investigations continue. The above statement from the VWF suggests that the three federations sanctioned for multiple ADRVs were allowed to choose which athletes will go to Tokyo and which ones must be withdrawn. Should a member federation accused of multiple ADRVs have that power?

The IWF has published a Final List of qualified athletes. There are 196 athletes on that List, which means that the full quota of 98 male and 98 female weightlifters has been fulfilled. The IWF hasn’t outlined which 12 athletes have been added to that List, or how they were selected, and a prior version of that List isn’t readily available for comparative purposes. Have the new 12 athletes undergone sufficient anti-doping tests?

Yesterday, it is understood that the IWF received a second warning from the IOC for attempting to delay the adoption of a new Constitution until after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This could see the sport booted out of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Clean weightlifters have already suffered enough due to the corrupt actions of the IWF and its officials. Is it ethical to allow the IWF to further punish potentially clean athletes for the ADRVs of dopers and the corrupt deeds of officials, through a corrupt system the IWF created and encouraged? 

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