24 June 2016

Weightlifting suspends Russia ahead of Rio 2016

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has added Russia and Kazakhstan to Bulgaria as countries that will be suspended ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. At its Executive Board meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, ‘the IWF Executive Board has decided that National Federations confirmed to have produced three or more Anti-Doping Rule Violations in the combined re-analysis process of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games shall be suspended for 1 year’, read a statement. ‘Countries thus subject to suspension are: KAZ, RUS, BLR’.

The IWF decided to ban Bulgaria from the Olympics in November last year, after 11 of its weightlifters tested positive in March. It can do this due to a unique rule introduced after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, due to the number of positives that were being reported in the sport. This provision is contained in Article 12.3.1 of its Anti-Doping Policy, which allows it to ban member federations from international competition for up to two years in the event that three or more anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) occur during a year.

In May, WADA’s Founding President, Dick Pound, rebutted suggestions that the IWF’s ban on Bulgaria represented double standards, given that Russians and Kenyans who can prove that they are clean may still participate in the Olympics, as IAAF and IOC decisions recently confirmed. “The IAAF doesn’t have such a rule”, he told The Sports Integrity Initiative. “In fact, no other federation has that rule”.

The IWF recently confirmed seven positives from the IOC’s retests of samples given at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and ten positives from samples given at the London 2012 Olympics. Of these, four Kazakh and three Russians were involved, however the Russian Ministry of Sport has questioned whether the IWF has the authority to ban its athletes, as while the ADRVs did occur in the past year, they are based on samples given in previous years.

“It is a psychotic episode, as if it is dictated, accompanied by a departure from the principals and norms”, Russian Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, told R-Sport, Reuters reports. “How can you punish a team which should go to the Olympic Games in 2016 for violations from 2008 or 2012?”

The IWF also announced that it would set up an Independent Investigation Commission to investigate the countries reporting three or more ADRVs per year, or three or more adverse analytical findings (AAFs) during the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 re-tests. It also said that it was ‘modifying its Anti-Doping Policy to enable it to apply extra sanctions beyond the existing articles, including suspension of federations which produce the most significant number of ADRVs in an Olympic period’.

The IWF also removed Olympic quotas for a number of countries, meaning that those countries will be able to send less athletes to Rio 2016. Two quotas (one man and one woman) were removed from the following countries: Azerbaijan; Kazakhstan; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and Russia. Two quotas were also withdrawn (two men) from Moldova; and one quota (male) was withdrawn from Belorussia and Romania; whilst one quota (woman) was withdrawn from Uzbekistan.

The IWF Executive Board also ‘expressed disappointment’ at the appointment of Sergey Syrtsov, President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, as Chair of the anti-doping commission of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF). In a statement, the EWF pointed out that Syrtsov was appointed by the EWF in April, and that ‘there is no evidence’ that Syrtsov has ‘personal responsibility’ for the doping cases in Russia. ‘If some personal responsibility is demonstrated, then I will personally ask him to resign as 1st Vice President’, wrote EWF President Antonio Urso.

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