(This Aug. 8 story corrects first paragraph to oldest lifter since 1988 according to IWF)
By Brian Oliver
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Belgium’s Tom Goegebuer, the oldest weightlifter at the Olympics since 1988, is looking forward to retirement and, most of all, a cold beer after coming 14th in the men’s 56kg at the Rio Games.
Goegebuer, who was 41 in March and the oldest lifter to compete since the Seoul Games according to the sport’s world governing International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), had only nine days’ notice to prepare for his third Olympics.
Having competed in his career against some rivals who were taking drugs, it was a ban on dopers from Russia, Kazakhstan and elsewhere that freed up places for his swansong in Rio.
Throughout the 1990s Goegebuer said he never stood a chance of winning medals in international competition.
Goegebuer said he was once invited to Bulgaria to train and take drugs. “They told me I would be stupid not to do it, I would always finish eighth,” he told Reuters in an interview after bringing the curtain down on his Olympic career on Sunday.
But when doping controls became stricter and out-of-competition tests were carried out his hopes improved.
Goegebuer competed at the European Championships for 18 straight years at 56kg or 62kg and won a gold medal in 2009.
He said other countries besides Russia were guilty of systematic doping and he would understand if the Russians were frustrated at the presence in Rio of Kazakhstan, who have had 32 positive tests in weightlifting since the 2008 Olympics.
“It’s very clear there are other countries doing it,” he said. “The chances are that there are a lot of impure athletes in Rio. I have seen performances in training that look dubious. Athletes and coaches have talked openly about it to me.”
In some countries, Goegebuer said, there is no shame in testing positive.
“As long as that is the case, you cannot remove the problem. They are deceiving people, including themselves.”
But his passion for the sport has not diminished and despite retiring from international competition he said he would continue weightlifting as a hobby and as a coach.
“I might even be back at the Olympics because I am coaching two very good young women lifters,” he said.
Goegebuer, a radiology scientist from Ghent, knew that because of his world ranking he was in line for a place in Rio when the exclusions of the banned lifters were announced, but he had to wait until July 29 for final confirmation.
He then drove 10 hours home from a break in Italy, picked up his team kit at 6.30 a.m., flew to Brazil and set about losing five kilos to make his weight.
He spent most of his preparation time in the sauna and barely ate.
“Being Belgian I do love the beer,” he said. “After all that time in the sauna, the beer is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Reporting by Brian Oliver, editing by Susanna Twidale