23rd January 2019

Thai weightlifters suspended after analysis of Athlete Biological Passports

Four female Thai weightlifters, including an Olympic champion, have been provisionally suspended after returning adverse analytical findings (AAFs, or positive tests) for similar substances from samples given at the 2018 World Weightlifting Championships in November last year. An International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) statement confirmed that no AAFs were recorded at the Championships, despite 52% of the participants being tested, but following consultation with its Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) Management Unit and the Cologne Laboratory, further targeted analysis was performed on samples. Using Gas Chromatography-Combustion-Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS), the four Thai AAFs were revealed.

As shown in the table above, the athletes involved all tested positive for exogenous testosterone, or its Adiols. The AAFs mean that six Thai weightlifters have been provisionally suspended after returning AAFs for exogenous testosterone or its Adiols since December last year. In December, Teerapat Chomchuen, who won Gold in the 50kg event at the 2017 IWF World Youth Championships, was provisionally suspended after returning an AAF for exogenous testosterone. Duanganksnorn Chaidee was also provisionally suspended in December due to an AAF for exogenous adiols of testosterone. Chaidee won two Bronze medals in the +87kg category at the 2018 IWF World Championships, as well as a Bronze in the +75kg category at the 2018 Asian Games. The IWF said that the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association has launched an investigation. 

As shown in the table above, AAFs have now been detected in the samples of Sophita Tanasan, who won Gold in the 48kg category at the Rio 2016 Olympics but finished fourth at the World Championships. Thunya Sukcharoen stands to lose the Gold she took in the 45kg category at the Worlds, as does Sukanya Srisurat, who took Gold in the 55kg category. The fourth athlete to record an AAF was Chitchanok Pulsabsakul, who finished sixth in the +87kg category. 

If three or more of the AAFs cannot be explained and result in ADRVs, Thailand could face a ban from international competition. In November 2015, the IWF banned Bulgaria from the Rio 2016 Olympics, after 11 of its weightlifters reported ADRVs. Under Article 12.3.1 of its Anti-Doping Policy, the IWF can ban member federations from international competition for up to two years if three or more ADRVs occur during a year. This rule was introduced after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, due to the number of AAFs being reported in the sport.

Weightlifting is currently only conditionally included in the programme for the Paris 2024 Olympics. In November last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) expressed concern at the participation of non-eligible athletes in an exhibition ahead of the 2018 IWF World Championships, where the four AAFs announced yesterday occurred. The IOC said that it would await the transition of the IWF anti-doping programme from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) to the International Testing Agency (ITA) this month before making a decision on whether weightlifting should be reinstated into the Paris 2024 programme.

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