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Russia, Iran among nations to lose Olympic weightlifting spots for doping

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Russia and Iran are among several nations who will lose places in the next Olympic weightlifting competition because of years of doping.

The International Weightlifting Federation published new rules which limit countries to one male and one female entry at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if they have had more than 20 doping cases in the sport since July 2008.

That applies to Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus, all major weightlifting powers. The IWF could still decide to ban them entirely if more cases emerge, IWF spokeswoman Lilla Rozgonyi said.

India and Iran fall into a second category of nations with between 10 and 20 confirmed doping cases in that period. Those countries can enter a maximum of two men and two women.

Other countries can enter up to four men and four women for the 2020 Games.

Weightlifting’s Olympic place came under threat after retesting of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games revealed 49 doping cases. In one event from 2012, six of the top seven finishers were disqualified.

After those cases emerged, the International Olympic Committee reduced the size of the weightlifting competition for the 2020 Olympics. The new rules are a way of ensuring the countries most to blame for weightlifting’s predicament pay the heaviest price.

The new code of rules was “approved by the IOC and follows the logic that the IOC quota reduction … was a ‘consequence’ of the retests from 2008 and 2012,” Rozgonyi said.

The new rules also force athletes to compete in at least six major events in the 18-month Olympic qualifying period. In the past, some lifters have barely competed ahead of the Olympics, leading to suspicions they were avoiding doping tests.

Russia was banned entirely from weightlifting at the 2016 Olympics after the IWF ruled its team’s persistent steroid use had tarnished the sport’s image. Nine countries, including Russia and China, were barred from last year’s world championships because of doping.

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MORE: Transgender weightlifter believes Olympic hopes dashed by injury

Transgender weightlifter believes Olympic hopes dashed by injury

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New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, a transgender weightlifter, believes she suffered a career-ending injury, rupturing a ligament in her left elbow on a snatch attempt (video here) at the Commonwealth Games on Monday, according to New Zealand media.

Hubbard, 40, could have been the first openly transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics in 2020 (though she did not mention the Olympics as a goal in at least two published December video interviews with New Zealand media).

“My arm’s busted,” Hubbard said Tuesday. “It looks like it’s probably going to be a career-ending injury, which is a real shame. I’m glad that I’ve gone out trying to achieve my best on the platform.”

Hubbard competed in elite weightlifting events as a man — Gavin Hubbard — until beginning a transition to a woman at age 35. In order to compete, she must meet strict criteria around testosterone levels.

In December, Hubbard earned a world championships silver medal in the 90kg+ super heavyweight division behind American Sarah Robles.

Robles’ coach criticized Hubbard’s participation, saying, “Nobody wanted her to win,” according to Reuters.

Hubbard returned to New Zealand and discussed her participation in multiple interviews, calling it “a complex question.”

“Obviously the policies that are being put forward by organizations like the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and the IWF [International Weightlifting Federation] are evolving, and perhaps they may change after I’ve competed,” Hubbard said in December. “But I would ask people to keep an open mind and perhaps look to the fact that I didn’t win as perhaps the evidence that any advantage I may hold is not as great as they might think. I may have started competing in the last 12 to 14 months, but I started training years and years and years before that. To be honest, I had to wait until the world changed before I could really compete again, and I’m grateful that it has. … The rules that enable me to compete first went into effect in 2003, were known as the Stockholm Consensus of the IOC. But, I think even 10 years ago, the world perhaps wasn’t ready for an athlete like myself, and perhaps it’s not really now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me.”

Another transgender athlete is bidding for the Tokyo Games — Brazilian indoor volleyball player Tifanny Abreu, according to The New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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U.S. ends world weightlifting title drought; transgender lifter gets silver

Sarah Robles
USA Weightlifting
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Sarah Robles, who in Rio earned the first U.S. Olympic weightlifting medal since 2000 (super heavyweight bronze), on Tuesday became the first American to win a world title since 1994.

The 29-year-old lifted two fewer kilograms than she did in Rio — a total of 626 pounds between the snatch and the clean and jerk in Anaheim, Calif.

The last American to win a world title was Robin Byrd in 1994.

New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard took silver with 606 total pounds, the first-ever world medal for her country.

Hubbard, 39, previously competed in men’s weightlifting as Gavin Hubbard, according to Reuters, which reported that Hubbard continued to decline interviews Tuesday, as she has for much of this year.

“She stayed away because she was embarrassed, probably,” Robles’ coach, Tim Swords, said, according to Reuters. “When Sarah beat Hubbard in the snatch, we were congratulated by multiple coaching staffs. Nobody wanted her to win.”

Hubbard may be the first openly transgender athlete to compete at a world championships in an Olympic sport. No openly transgender athlete has competed at an Olympics, though Olympic rules allow it.

Robles, Hubbard and others benefited from the absence of countries banned for doping issues, like weightlifting powers China and Russia, and North Korea, another strong lifting nation, not sending a team.

Chinese and North Korean lifters won gold and silver in the super heavyweight division in Rio.

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