In a shock twist in the the lead up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it has been confirmed by the International Weightlifting Federation that twenty Olympic weightlifting athletes have failed retests of their blood samples from Beijing and London.
An update this week from the IWF’s president confirmed that five of the positive retests were Olympic gold medallists. The IWF are currently withholding the names of the athletes as the International Olympic Committee finalise their testing, but have stressed that suspension will follow in accordance with the WADA code and its own Anti-Doping Policy.
A Kazakh news outlet has caused further speculation by naming one positive retest as Ilya Ilyin, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion who many consider to be the greatest weightlifter of all time. However, this is unconfirmed, and the origin site has given unclear citations for the information. If Ilyin does prove to have failed his Beijing and London tests, he will be banned from competing at Rio and will have both of his gold medals rescinded.
Another figure of speculation is Liao Hui, the 2008 Olympic champion in the 69kg class. Hui has already been banned by the IWF for three years for doping following the 2010 Worlds. It is likely that, should a positive test be returned, Hui will be banned for life from weightlifting competition as well as having his 2008 gold medal withdrawn.
The news comes after the IOC announced more than 454 retests of doping samples from Beijing and 250 from London in May, in what is thought to be a final effort to stop any drug cheats finding their way to Rio. In an official statement, the IOC President Thomas Bach, an Olympic champion himself, declared: “This is a powerful strike against the cheats we do not allow to win.”
One Team GB athlete in the javelin, Goldie Sayers, has already been informed that she is primed to be retroactively awarded a bronze medal from Beijing after the event’s silver medallist, Mariya Abakumova, allegedly failed her retest. This is yet to be confirmed officially by the IOC, but it looks like we’re going to see a significant reshuffle of the podiums for all the events from Beijing and London over the next few weeks.
Teaser photo courtesy of Pixabay.