A January 22, 2019 press release from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) revealed six doping violations from the 2018 IWF World Championships, all involving Thai athletes.
These doping violations come at a pivotal time for the sport. In June 2017, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach told reporters: “The IWF has until December 2017 to deliver a satisfactory report to the IOC on how they will address the massive doping problem this sport is facing.”
Since June 2017, the IWF has taken several measures to clean up the sport. Most notably, in October 2017, the IWF banned nine countries–Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Turkey, China and Kazakhstan–from participating in international competitions for twelve months. The countries, referred to as the Tbilisi Nine, incurred three or more positive results from the retesting of frozen samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Tbilisi Nine were punished with a one year ban for having three or more positives across two competitions. Thailand had six positives in a single competition. With a delegation of 19 athletes, Thailand’s doping violations amounted to a 32% doping rate amongst their athletes.
The ban on the Tbilisi Nine sent a clear message to the weightlifting community that countries with athletes who dope will be punished as a whole. Nothing less than a one year ban for Thai weightlifters should be accepted by the community. In fact, greater punishment is warranted in Thailand’s case. The astounding number of positives suggests systematic doping, an act that resulted in Russia’s removal from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In addition, Thailand’s doping occurred after the ban on the Tbilisi Nine, suggesting that a one-year ban is not enough to deter countries from doping.
Interestingly, the 2019 IWF World Championships are slated for September in Pattaya, Thailand. To assure the IOC that weightlifting is standing strong against doping, the IWF should relocate the 2019 IWF World Championships, ban Thailand from participating in the sport for at least a year, and completely remove them from the 2020 Olympic Games. Anything less may jeopardize weightlifting’s presence as an Olympic Sport.
Photo Credit: Lifting.Life