Russia, China among 9 top weightlifting countries hit with doping ban
Year-long suspensions issued after drug test samples from 2008, 2012 Olympics re-examined
Russia and China were among nine countries suspended from weightlifting for a year on Saturday in an attempt to combat an epidemic of doping.
The sport has been under pressure to clean up or face being dropped from the Olympics.
The decision by the International Weightlifting Federation followed the re-testing of anti-doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Countries with at least three doping offences from those Olympics were suspended. The IWF started pursuing the suspensions before last year's Olympics, but the process was held up by legal challenges.
Also suspended were Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine.
"We have made it clear that the incidence of doping in some areas is totally unacceptable and that our members have a responsibility to ensure clean sport in their countries," IWF president Tamas Ajan said in a statement.
"If they do not fulfill their responsibilities to ensure their lifters are clean then they will lose their right to participate. But we will not turn our backs on them; we will continue to work with them, (the World Anti-Doping Agency), and their national anti-doping agencies to support their anti-doping activities and help make cultural change."
Weakened field for worlds
The suspensions could mean a drastically weakened world championships, scheduled from Nov. 28 through Dec. 6 in Anaheim, California.
The IWF said there wouldn't be any exceptions from the ban to allow individual athletes from the suspended countries to compete, regardless of whether they've ever failed a drug test. Athletics has allowed some athletes from Russia to compete as independents during its ban from that sport for systemic doping.
"The countries will receive official notification about the suspension in mid-October and at the IWF indicated there is no possibility to compete as neutral or independent," IWF spokeswoman Lilla Rozgonyi told The Associated Press in a text message.
It's not the first time the IWF has kicked countries out of major competitions for doping.
Bulgaria and Russia were both barred from last year's Olympics — Bulgaria after eight of its athletes tested positive for steroids ahead of the European championships, Russia after WADA accused it of widespread drug use and cover-ups.
Put on notice
In June, the International Olympic Committee warned weightlifting to do more to fight doping or risk being cut from the 2024 Paris Games. IOC president Thomas Bach demanded the IWF "address the massive doping problem" and report back by December.
There have been more than 50 failed tests in weightlifting from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics combined, putting it second only to athletics, which had many more competitors. In some weightlifting events, all three original medalists were disqualified.
The men's 94-kilogram category from the 2012 Olympics saw seven lifters fail re-tests, putting the original ninth-place finisher in line for an upgrade to bronze.
Those banned include some of the sport's biggest stars, such as Ilya Ilyin from Kazakhstan, a four-time world lifter of the year who was stripped of his 2008 and 2012 gold medals for taking anabolic steroids.