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More Olympic weightlifting medalists banned after doping retests

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Two more Olympic weightlifting medalists are in line to be stripped of their medals after retests of their London 2012 samples came back positive for banned substances.

Ukrainian Oleksiy Torokhtiy, 105kg gold medalist, and Azerbaijan’s Valentin Hristov, the 56kg bronze medalist, were among five 2012 Olympians banned, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) announced Saturday.

As was Uzbek Ruslan Nurudinov, who was fourth in London and went on to earn 105kg gold in Rio.

Those three tested positive for dehydrochloromethyltestosterone, which falls under the anabolic androgenic steroids section of the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substances list.

The IWF said the International Olympic Committee is now responsible for retroactively stripping results from the 2012 Olympics.

There have been 56 doping positives in weightlifting between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, counting retests done in recent years, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen.

In one event from 2012, six of the top seven finishers were disqualified.

After those cases emerged, the IOC 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.

In April, the IWF published new rules which limit countries to one male and one female entry at the 2020 Olympics if they have had more than 20 doping cases in the sport since July 2008. That list of countries includes powers Russia and Iran.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Russia prevents WADA from finding doping data in Moscow lab

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MOSCOW (AP) — World Anti-Doping Agency inspectors are leaving Moscow empty-handed after Russian authorities prevented them from accessing key doping data that the country’s authorities had agreed to hand over.

WADA reinstated the suspended Russian Anti-Doping Agency in September on the condition Russian authorities hand over lab data, which could help confirm a number of violations uncovered during an investigation that revealed a state-sponsored doping program designed to win medals at the Sochi Olympics and other major event.

But Friday, WADA said its delegation “was unable to complete its mission” because Russia unexpectedly demanded its equipment be “certified under Russian law.” WADA says the demand wasn’t raised at earlier talks. The deadline to turn over the data is Dec. 31.

WADA says team leader Toni Pascual will now prepare a report on the failed mission. The WADA compliance review committee that recommended RUSADA’s reinstatement will meet Jan. 14-15, where it could recommend the ban on RUSADA be re-imposed. WADA kept open the option of returning to the lab before year’s end if Russia resolves the issue.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told local media the WADA team would return, but there was no word on the date and no mention of the issue raised by WADA.

WADA leaders portrayed Russia’s willingness to turn over the data as a key reason for agreeing to reinstate RUSADA despite its failure to comply with key requirements on the “roadmap” WADA had set out.

“We’ve tried to come to terms with the Russians on how this was to be done, and this is the first time since discussing it that they’ve actually said ‘yes,’” WADA director general Olivier Niggli in September, in an impassioned defense of the decision. “We hope they’ll fulfill that promise.”

It was a widely criticized decision, and the reaction to Friday’s news was predictable.

“Surprise, surprise — anyone shocked by this?” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “Let’s hope WADA leadership has finally learned the lesson and immediately declares them non-compliant. Anything else is simply another shiv in the back of clean athletes.”

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Laura Zeng, top U.S. rhythmic gymnast, suspended 6 months

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Laura Zeng, the four-time reigning U.S. rhythmic gymnastics champion and Olympian, was banned six months after testing positive for a banned substance in an altitude-sickness medication that she thought was ibuprofen, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The 19-year-old Zeng’s ban runs through April 17, backdated to the date of her drug test. She will not miss any major meets.

The banned substance, acetazolamide, is a diuretic. The medication was prescribed to one of her parents. Zeng took the medication while traveling in a high-altitude location, according to USADA.

Since Zeng thought it was ibuprofen, which is not banned, she did not apply for a therapeutic-use exemption that athletes commonly request to take prescribed medication that contains otherwise banned substances.

In Rio, Zeng matched the highest individual Olympic finish for a U.S. rhythmic gymnast (11th place) since the sport was introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Zeng also has the highest all-around finishes for an American at the world championships, placing sixth in 2017 and eighth in 2015 and 2018.

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