Features 25th January 2018

IWF could have issued Illya Illyin with a longer ban

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has argued that it had ‘no choice’ but to issue Illya Illyin with a two-year ban, after retests of samples given at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics returned adverse analytical findings for stanozolol and dehydrochloromethyltestosterone. However, it appears that the IWF could have issued the Kazakh weightlifter – who took gold in the -94kg category at both Games – with a longer ban, if it had dealt with his two anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) in separate procedures.

The IWF also announced that it has provisionally suspended four of the 317 athletes participating at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, USA, after they returned AAFs (see table on right). They are silver medal winner in the -69kg category at Anaheim, Romela Begaj; Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games 62kg gold medal winner Dimitris Minasidis; Rio 2016 -94kg gold medal winner Aurimas Didzbalis, who was previously suspended for doping in 2012; and winner of the 2017 European Championship gold medal in the -77kg category, Dumitru Captari.

The IWF conducted 212 tests including 141 urine and 43 blood tests in Anaheim, representing 67% of the total number of athletes. This compared to 236 tests including 172 urine and 64 blood at the 2015 IWF World Championships in Houston, USA.

The IWF said that despite Illyin’s double violation, his sanction represented the maximum allowed under the World Anti-Doping Code. ‘Since the athlete had not been notified of the first violation (Beijing 2008) before committing the second (London 2012), the violation committed in London cannot be treated as a second violation’, read a statement.

The IWF pointed to Article 10.7.4 of the World Anti-Doping Code as the reason why the two violations had to be considered as one sanction. As its statement claims, this currently reads: ‘An anti-doping rule violation will only be considered a second violation if the anti-doping organization can establish that the athlete or other Person committed the second anti- doping rule violation after the athlete or other Person received notice pursuant to Article 7, or after the anti-doping organization made reasonable efforts to give notice of the first anti-doping rule violation. if the anti-doping organization cannot establish this, the violations shall be considered together as one single first violation, and the sanction imposed shall be based on the violation that carries the more severe sanction.’ 

However, the wording above is from the 2015 version of the Code, which did not come into force until 1 January that year. As Illyin’s samples relate to the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics, it is necessary to consider his first ADRV under the 2003 version of the Code, and his second under the 2009 version. The wording in these versions is somewhat different.

The 2003 version of the Code, which was applicable during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, does not contain the clause mentioned above. The 2009 version, which was applicable during the London 2012 Olympics, does contain the clause, but adds the following caveat: ‘however, the occurrence of multiple violations may be considered as a factor in determining aggravating circumstances (Article 10.6)’. Under Article 10.6 of the 2009 Code, anti-doping organisations (ADOs) could scale a ban up to four years ‘unless the Athlete or other Person can prove to the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing panel that he or she did not knowingly commit the anti-doping rule violation’.

The 2009 version of the Code allows an ADO to impose additional sanctions for a second offence. ‘If, after the resolution of a first anti-doping rule violation, an Anti-Doping Organization discovers facts involving an anti-doping rule violation by the Athlete or other Person which occurred prior to notification regarding the first violation, then the Anti-Doping Organization shall impose an additional sanction based on the sanction that could have been imposed if the two violations would have been adjudicated at the same time’, reads the rest of Article 10.7.4, which is not mentioned by the IWF.

Therefore, it appears that should the IWF have wished to sanction Illyin for a longer period, all it needed to do was to bring forward two separate procedures against him. Having notified him of the London 2012 ADRV, it could then commence proceedings against him concerning the earlier Beijing 2008 ADRV. The wording of the 2009 Code appears to be the opposite of what the IWF has claimed.

Ilyin would be eligible to compete, but Kazakhstan remains suspended until 19 October this year as it has reported more than three ADRVs as a result of reanalysis of Beijing 2008 and London 2012 samples. Article 12.3.1 of the IWF Anti-Doping Policy, allows it to ban member federations from international competition for up to two years in the event that three or more ADRVs occur during a year.

Last year, the IOC threatened weightlifting with exclusion from the 2024 Olympics, unless it dealt with the doping problems the sport faces. The IOC and WADA have yet to comment on the IWF’s announcement.

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