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Weightlifters From Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan Face Rio Ban

  • RFE/RL

World champion Ilya Ilyin is among the weightlifters from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus who face a possible ban from the Rio Olympics.

World champion Ilya Ilyin is among the weightlifters from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus who face a possible ban from the Rio Olympics.

The International Weightlifting Federation says weightlifting teams from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus could be banned from the 2016 Olympics in August because of positive drug tests on samples from previous Olympics.

The federation imposed one-year suspensions on the teams of all three countries on June 22, saying it had confirmed three or more doping violations on each team.

It said final decisions on their possible bans from the Olympics in Rio de Janiero will be made after the International Olympic Committee makes a definitive ruling on retests of samples taken during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Russian Sport Minister Vitaly Mutko -- who has been implicated in allegations that Moscow is behind a state-sponsored doping program involving dozens of Russia's top athletes -- called the developments "a psychotic episode" and "a departure from the principles and norms."

Speaking to Russia's R-Sport news agency on June 23, Mutko said: "How can you punish a team which should go to the Olympic games in 2016 for violations from 2008 or 2012? I don't know."

If Russia's weightlifting team is disqualified from the 2016 Olympics, it would be the second major sport where Russian athletes have been banned from Rio.

Russia's track-and-field team was barred last week because of multiple violations of rules from the World Anti-Doping Agency about the use of performance enhancing drugs.

According to a June 21 ruling by the International Olympic Committee, any individual member of the Russian team who wants to compete at Rio can do so only if they are declared to be "clean" of banned drugs by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Mikhail Butov, the general-secretary of the Russian Athletics Federation, said on June 23 that Russian athletes plan to file a class-action lawsuit next week with the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport in response to the ban against Russia's 2016 Olympic track team.

Ahead of a final decision on the 2016 Olympics for the Russian, Kazakh, and Belarusian weightlifting teams, the International Weightlifting Federation has withdrawn 11 quota places at Rio for Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, North Korea, and Moldova.

That decision resulted from multiple doping violations at the 2015 world championships in Houston, which was part of the Olympic qualifying process.

The federation also castigated the European Weightlifting Federation for its recent appointment of Sergei Systsov, president of the Russian federation, as chair of its anti-doping commission, and suggested it reconsider the appointment.

The federation has set up an independent commission to investigate the nations who returned three or more positives from the retesting of 2008 and 2012 samples, which was carried out after advances in science enabled better detection of prohibited substances.

The worst offender was Kazakhstan, a weightlifting superpower led by the reigning world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Ilya Ilyin.

Ilyin is expected to be stripped of his gold medals from the Olympics in Beijing and London.

Three Kazakh women who won gold medals in 2012 also tested positive for using banned performance enhancing drugs.

The weightlifting federation vowed to toughen its anti-doping policy in the future, threatening to ban nations who had the worst doping record during an Olympic qualifying period. It also said it aims to test every athlete who will be competing in Rio before the games.

The possible Olympic bans for Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus would bring to four the number of nations who will not be allowed to compete in Rio.

Bulgaria already was excluded last year, after 11 lifters at a training camp tested positive. Romania and Uzbekistan had already lost one quota place each.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, TASS and R-Sport
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