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Retroactive analysis brings doping charges against Russian weightlifters

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MOSCOW (AP) — Five Russian weightlifters, all of them world or European championship medalists, face doping charges which could herald a new wave of cases across a range of sports.

The International Weightlifting Federation said Tuesday that evidence against the five lifters, including 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Ruslan Albegov, comes from new investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency into widespread drug use in Russian sports. All five have been provisionally suspended.

Albegov was also provisionally suspended in 2017, but the suspension was lifted the next year. The entire Russian team was banned from the 2016 Olympics.

IWF president Tamas Ajan said the alleged offenses occurred “some years ago” and should be seen as part of efforts to clean up weightlifting, which was responsible for dozens of doping cases at recent Olympics.

“We have not shown any hesitation in taking the right decisions,” he said in a statement. “While the IWF has done so much to begin a bright new chapter for our sport, we will also do what we can to pursue historical cases of doping.”

Albegov is a two-time world champion who won bronze in July in a test event for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

The others are world champion Tima Turiyeva and double European champions Oleg Chen and David Bedzhanyan, as well as Egor Klimonov, who won European championship silver in April.

Russia was banned entirely from weightlifting at the 2016 Olympics when the IWF said its doping problem brought the sport into disrepute. For next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Russia is among 17 countries hit with new doping-related restrictions on the size of their squads.

WADA has been analyzing a vast archive of data obtained in January from the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, where cases were routinely covered up for years. WADA has started handing over its results to sports federations. It also obtained a batch of stored drug-test samples in April.

The lab data was crucial to bans for two Russians in the winter sport of biathlon in June. The International Biathlon Union handed Alexander Chernyshov and Alexander Pechyonkin longer bans because it deemed their conduct was aggravated by being part of an “organized doping scheme.”

WADA president Craig Reedie said at the time that he expects more than 100 new doping cases to be brought across various Russian sports. Only a small fraction has so far been announced.

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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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‘Pocket Hercules,’ Olympic weightlifting legend, exhumed

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Naim Suleymanoglu, Turkey’s triple Olympic champion weightlifter nicknamed “Pocket Hercules,” was reportedly exhumed for a paternity test, seven months after his death at age 50.

The paternity case was filed by Sekai Mori, claiming to be the 27-year-old daughter of Suleymanoglu and a Japanese journalist he met at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, according to Turkey’s Hürriyet Daily News.

Suleymanoglu was exhumed Wednesday to the opposition of two of Suleymanoglu’s daughters, according to the report.

“Exhumation is a routine in paternity cases if the father is dead,” Mori’s attorney said, according to the report, adding that the lifter’s DNA samples from a hospital were “insufficient for a paternity test.”

Suleymanoglu died Nov. 18, a month after undergoing a liver transplant and remaining in intensive care due to a brain hemorrhage and further surgery, according to Turkish media.

The 5-foot, 136-pound Suleymanoglu became the first weightlifter to win three Olympic titles, doing so in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

He could clean and jerk three times his body weight, helping gain his famous nickname.

Suleymanoglu was born Naim Suleimanov in a Bulgarian mountain village. He wanted to start weightlifting at age 9, when he was 3-foot-9 and 55 pounds.

He was a world medalist by age 16 and a world champion by 18 but missed the 1984 Olympics in between due to Bulgaria joining the Soviet-led boycott.

He defected from Bulgaria in 1986 after charges of human rights violations, even murders, by Bulgarian authorities against the country’s ethnic Turks.

All this happened during Suleymanoglu’s eight-year winning streak in major competition, starting as a Bulgarian competitor and finishing representing Turkey.

Suleymanoglu dominated the Olympic featherweight division in 1988 (broke six world records) and 1992 (won by 33 pounds).

Suleymanoglu came out of retirement ahead of the 2000 Sydney Games. At 33, he hoped to join Carl LewisAl Oerter and Paul Elvstrom as the only athletes to win four golds in an individual event.

He failed at all three attempts in the snatch, eliminating him from the competition.

The Turkish government reportedly rewarded Suleymanoglu with a new house every time he won a world title (seven world titles, plus the three Olympic golds).

NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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