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IOC disqualifies 2012 Olympic bronze medalist for doping

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LASUANNE, Switzerland — The IOC disqualified three athletes, including a bronze medalist weightlifter from Azerbaijan, on Friday for doping at the 2012 London Olympics.

Valentin Hristov was stripped of his third-place finish in the 56-kilogram class. His positive test for oral turinabol, the anabolic steroid linked to East Germany’s doping program in the 1970s and ’80s, had been announced in December.

Hristov faces a life ban from the International Weightlifting Federation for his third doping offense.

The Bulgaria-born lifter, who turns 35 on Saturday, is already serving an eight-year ban until December 2023 for a positive test for nandrolone at the 2015 world championships in Houston. Hristov was also caught doping at the 2013 European Championships.

The bronze medal could now be allocated by the International Olympic Committee to fourth-place finisher Tran Le Quoc Toan of Vietnam.

Two athletes from Belarus also tested positive for anabolic steroids in reanalysis of their London samples, the IOC said. Men’s 800-meter runner Anis Ananenka and women’s hammer thrower Alena Matoshka both failed to reach the final of their events.

More than 100 athletes, including dozens of medalists, have been caught in reanalysis of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics using a more sensitive test for steroids.

Most cases involved athletes from former Soviet republics, and at least six were from Azerbaijan’s weightlifting team.

The IOC said retests will continue until the statute of limitations applied to the 2012 Olympics is reached next year.

Weightlifting was put under review by the IOC in 2017 after having at least 50 positive tests combined from the Beijing and London reanalysis.

This week, the Olympic body’s executive board lifted a threat to remove weightlifting from the 2024 Paris Games after accepting reforms in the sport.

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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