Weightlifting federation bans Russian team from Rio Olympics

© Grigoriy Sisoev
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) became the second sports body to ban the entire Russian team from participating in the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Russia’s track & field team had been excluded earlier.

“The integrity of the weightlifting sport has been seriously damaged on multiple times and levels by the Russians, therefore an appropriate sanction was applied in order to preserve the status of the sport,” said a statement published on the IWF website.

Weightlifting is a sport historically associated with doping offenses, and Russia’s athletes have been some of the most heavily implicated in the recently-published McLaren Report sponsored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which allegedly exposed state-sponsored cheating.

8 athletes were nominated by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) to compete in the Rio Olympic Games weightlifting events. Ms. Tatiana Kashirina’s and Ms. Anastasiia Romanova’s nominations were withdrawn by the ROC due to prior anti-doping rule violations,” wrote the IWF.

Four additional athletes were listed in the McLaren Report as beneficiaries of the Disappearing Positive Methodology System,” added the statement, referring to an alleged system in which tainted samples from athletes were replaced with clean ones by officials in exchange for money, or in order to earn Russia international prestige from better performances.

With six out of the eight members of the team accused of past or present violations, the IWF referred to last week’s ruling by the International Olympic Committee, which left it to individual federations to decide whether Russia’s teams can participate in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, noting that “Russian athletes in any of the 28 Olympic summer sports have to assume the consequences of what amounts to a collective responsibility in order to protect the credibility of the Olympic competitions.”

The IWF also pointed out that 7 samples submitted by Russian athletes for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and those in London in 2012 have now been re-tested as positive, in what the federation called a “shocking and disappointing” statistic.

Russian weightlifter and two-time European champion Andrey Demanov told RT that the athletes’ dreams had been shattered by the IWF decision.

“We all were hoping till the last moment that some of the competitors would take part in the Olympics. Our worst fears have come to reality. We expected our weightlifters to win seven medals,” he said.

Sergey Syrtsov, President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, told TASS that the members of the IWF executive committee were under immense pressure from senior officials while deliberating the decision.

“We know from credible sources that, despite unprecedented pressure from the management of the International Weightlifting Federation, three executive committee members stood by their principles and voted to permit Russian heavy weightlifters Oleg Chen and David Bedzhanyan to compete in the Olympic Games,” he stated, adding that 14 out of 17 members had voted for Russia to be banned.

“We will analyze everything in emergency mode now, talk to the management of Russia’s Olympic Committee lawyers and will take an appropriate decision in the near future,” he added

David Rigert, former chief coach of Russia’s weightlifting team and IWF commission member, called the decision to bar all Russian weightlifters from Rio a “real banditry.”

“This is totally unfair. This is a real banditry,” he said, adding that “for the whole generation of sportsmen this might be it, finish. Someone will have to end his career, someone won’t cope.”

While Rigert admitted that there have been some problems with doping within the sport, he maintained that they should not have led to a blanket ban on all athletes.

Sergey Syrtsov, President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation, told TASS that the members of the IWF executive committee were under immense pressure from senior officials while deliberating the decision.

“Yes, we have sinned, but not to the extent of getting banned from the Olympics,” he said, adding that “moreover, not only our country has problems [with doping].”

“The [Russian Weightlifting] Federation will do everything in its power to rehabilitate us, but it is impossible to do it before the Olympics; there is no time to do anything,” Russian weightlifter Aleksey Lovchev told RT, commenting on the IWF decision.

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