Investigation of doping in weightlifting finds doppelgangers used for clean urine

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Evidence of doppelgangers being used to impersonate athletes during drug testing, ensuring clean urine, was found in an ongoing World Anti-Doing Agency investigation into weightlifting.

A Thursday update from the WADA investigation, launched in 2017, noted an “inquiry into practice of real-time urine substitution by athletes and the use of doppelgangers,” uncovering suspected cases involving 18 weightlifters from six countries.

“A doppelganger is a person who impersonates an athlete during testing and provides a sample on their behalf,” according to WADA.

The IOC recently warned the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) that the sport’s place on the 2024 Paris Olympic program could be brought into question if it didn’t reform its management and crack down on doping. Weightlifting was on the program for the first modern Olympics in 1896 and has been part of every edition since 1920.

“WADA is appalled by what its Intelligence and Investigations Department has uncovered in this investigation,” WADA President Witold Banka said in a press release. “For too long, clean weightlifters have had to deal with an entrenched culture of doping in their sport, where the promotion of fear ensured that the truth remained hidden and that those who wanted to do the right thing were isolated. Once again this has shown the importance of whistleblower information and the positive difference that can be made when people with information have the courage to come forward.”

WADA developed a new method of detecting urine substitution at the point of collection and the use of sample surrogates, or doppelgangers.

In the investigation’s “Operation Heir,” confidential sources began alleging in early 2018 that select Romanian lifters were part of an organized doping program, including engaging in urine substitution using doppelgangers to avoid detection.

In early 2020, one unnamed elite Romanian with a history of doping was banned for using a doppelganger to provide an out-of-competition sample, according to WADA.

Also, in the investigation’s “Operation Extra,” WADA received allegations of the “use of synthetic urinary devices by international-level athletes to swap dirty urine with clean urine.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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