TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) - The International Weightlifting Federation hopes that “innovative and creative” rules targeting nations who have violated anti-doping regulations will secure the long term future of the sport in the Olympic program.
Five nations, including Russia, with high doping records have risked weightlifting’s place on the Olympic schedule.
The IWF is effectively allowing Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus only two places each at the Tokyo 2020 Games. This is due to the new rules stating that any nation with 20 or more doping violations from 2008 to 2020 will be allowed only one man and one woman at the Games.
Speaking in the Japanese capital after meeting the Tokyo Olympics’ organizing committee, IWF Director General Attila Adamfi says the new regulations should send a clear message that doping will not be tolerated.
“We took the innovative and creative approach to be able and to provide the possibility for all National Olympic Committees to participate at the Olympic Games but also to reward the clean National Olympic Committees with more possibilities and more quotas,” the Hungarian told Reuters.
“So we are not sanctioning anybody, we are providing additional benefits and additional quota slots for clean countries.”
The new policy has been approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who have threatened the sport with removal from the Olympic schedule for the Paris 2024 Games if it failed to improve its doping record.
The doping problem led to weightlifting being put on probation by the IOC, which wants constant updates – with the next one due in June.
“It is not a secret, we are under pressure, obviously,” said Adamfi.
“Obviously not everyone is happy but everybody understands that the sport needs to be creative and needs to be tough on this issue to demonstrate to the International Olympic Committee and to the broader public that the International Weightlifting Federation is absolutely determined to clear the sport.”
Collectively Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Armenia have had more than 130 doping violations since 2008 with several cases still outstanding, according to the IWF’s website.
All five are among the nine nations serving a one-year suspension until October for multiple retests.
“The most important message for the clean member federations is that we are doing our best to protect them and we will do our best to ensure a level playing field,” Adamfi insisted.
“We will also provide a message, not exactly with the qualification system, but in general with our very tough anti-doping activity that ‘don’t even try, because we will catch you.’”
Among other changes, the IWF has made Olympic qualifying an individual rather than a team-based system, which will lead to more testing of prospective Olympic lifters.
All those who want to be in Tokyo will have to compete six times during the 18-month qualifying period, making it impossible for athletes to stay away for long periods, which has happened in the past.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Christian Radnedge