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About These IWF Drug Suspensions…
Matt Foreman

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard about the recent drug suspensions in Olympic weightlifting.
 
The urine samples taken from the athletes at the 2012 London Olympic Games were reanalyzed over the past few months, and a long list of pretty important weightlifters got popped.  Several medalists and champions have been caught with their hands in the stanozolol jar, so now they’ve been suspended from competition (adios, Rio). These are some of the biggest superstars in the sport, including… well, probably THE biggest superstar in the sport, Ilya Ilin of Kazakhstan.
 
Kazakhstan really took it in the shorts, by the way. Svetlana Podobedova, Maiya Maneza, and Zulfiya Chinshanlo also got busted. I keep getting a mental image of the KAZ coaches and medical staff people standing in a chorus line singing the Borat song that goes, “In my country, we have problem.” 
 
In case you’re confused, here’s the basic explanation of this whole mess.
  1. These lifters all passed their drug tests when they competed at the 2012 Olympics.
  2. The International Olympic Committee decided to go back after four years and re-test the 2012 urine samples because of advances in doping detection since then.
  3. These more effective testing procedures worked, some juicers have been exposed, and now they’re getting suspended.
So the International Weightlifting Federation has to hang its head in shame and give the boot to several of the most high-profile athletes in the sport, like a little kid who pouts and mutters cuss words as his parents make him drag the garbage can out to the curb.

This news is a gargantuan bombshell in Olympic weightlifting, probably one of the biggest ones I’ve seen in my 25+ years in the sport.

This news is a gargantuan bombshell in Olympic weightlifting, probably one of the biggest ones I’ve seen in my 25+ years in the sport. And because we now live in the era of social media, everybody and their crippled grandmother has been talking about it on the internet.
 
Here are just a few of my many thoughts about this, in no particular order:
  • This whole thing is about as surprising to me as another Kim Kardashian nude selfie. Most of the top weightlifting countries in the world have firmly established drug programs for their athletes. In the uber-top countries of the sport, these drug programs are usually funded and protected by the government. This has been going on for decades. Everybody knows about it. If you disagree with me about this, you don’t know anything about international weightlifting. If I just hit you with a Santa-Claus-doesn’t-exist moment, my condolences.
  • The only reason we don’t see massive lists of drug positives at every international weightlifting meet is the skill and precision of the doping systems in these powerhouse countries. They put a lot of time and work into making sure their athletes don’t get popped, and they’ve got it down to a science. Again… I’m sorry if I’m dampening your outlook on the top lifters in the world.  You’ll just have to figure out your own way to mentally settle up with it, like we’ve all had to do.
  • This explosive announcement might not be the end of it. Trust me, we’ll see a lot more drug positives if this re-testing is as effective as they’re saying it is.
  • Several people are wondering why China hasn’t been nailed yet. I don’t know the whole answer to that. But I do know about an old conversation where one of the top officials in the International Weightlifting Federation told my coach that drug testing is completely ineffective in China because the Chinese use some… highly extravagant tactics to make sure their lifters don’t test positive. Let’s just say the Great Wall isn’t the only extensive blockade in that country.
There are different types of opinions about this. Here are a few of them:
  1. Weightlifting fans who don’t care about drug use are heartbroken right now. Their favorite lifters are getting tossed, so they’re not going to get to watch the stars break records in Rio. It’s like a bunch of downtrodden little kids walking around with their favorite NFL player’s jersey on… after that player gets suspended for getting caught with hookers and blow.
  2. Clean US lifters (and their coaches) are giggling their asses off. When you’re a drug-free lifter who competes at a high level against juicers, you love it when they get popped because the armchair quarterbacks have to eat a nice big Turdburger. Announcements like this really jam up those knuckleheads who think the Europeans are better than the US because they have tougher work ethic, greater technique, stronger coaching, and superior souls. It’s a rare moment of encouragement for those of us in US weightlifting who know they’re mainly better than us because they have superior pharmaceuticals (along with some other things we don’t have… like financial opportunity).
  3. The general public scrunches up their noses and talks about how the Olympics should kick those filthy drugged-up weightlifters out of the Games, so everybody can enjoy the pure pursuits that are free from corruption… like cycling, track and field, and the Mexican Drug War.
In case you didn’t read between the lines of the IWF announcement, it stated that these athletes have been “provisionally suspended.” You see the word “provisionally,” right? Do you want to know what that word means? It means there’s still a chance somebody could pull some kind of shenanigan that sweeps this whole thing under the carpet and puts all those popped lifters on the platform in Rio. I don’t think it will happen like this, but it’s possible. Back in 1996, the best lifter in the world (Alexei Petrov from Russia) tested positive shortly before the Atlanta Games. Russia was able to get his suspension erased because Petrov’s girlfriend testified in a Russian superior court that she had spiked one of Alexei’s protein drinks with steroids after a lover’s quarrel, which resulted in his positive test. I think the legal team that handled the case was the same one from the OJ Simpson trial. The court bought it, the IWF lifted his ban, and Petrov won the gold medal.
 
In a nutshell, old war horses like me get pretty jaded when people start talking about a true clean-up of the sport. As Don King would say, we get “skeptical up the receptacle.” I would love it if weightlifting really became a drug-free sport. You know why? Because America would start winning medals. I think we’re still a long way from a drug-free sport, however. And when I say “a long way,” I’m thinking about the length of the solar system.
 
Some of you want clean sport. Some of you want 210 kg snatches and you don’t give a damn if athletes take drugs. I don’t know which way this sport is going to go, but I do know the last year has shown a bigger drug crackdown than I’ve seen in a long time in weightlifting, maybe ever. We’ll all just wait and see what the next step is.

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.


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16 Comments
 

mbasic 2016-06-20
"I would love it if weightlifting really became a drug-free sport. You know why? Because America would start winning medals." . . . I think we'd still be way on the outside looking in. probably 30-40% drugs; 30%-40% better athlete pool; 30% gov't supported system. PEDs only one piece to the puzzle. USA is like 2-3 weight classes off of medal contention typically (world meets).
Michael 2016-06-21
Do you really think that the only reason the US arent getting medals is because they are all clean.
Guess what....... The Easter bunny ain't real either
Zarna 2016-06-21
Interesting analysis

Couple of counter points though

1) These retest do not really support American athletes being clean. These retest only re-enforces the nothing that a lot weightlifting systems use banned PEDs. Only medalists I believe were subject to retest. These medalist tested negative initially just like any American lifters at these two games (I cannot recall that any Americans took medals in these games though, but I may be wrong). These medalists were subject to more sensitive retests and they failed. Whereas the American nonmedalists were not subject to retest so no conclusion can be drawn about cleaniness American lifters

2) To say that these tests indicates that a lot of national lifting programs are doped is fine. But at the same time deny the legitamcy these testing lend to the objective cleaniness of the Chinese program is none sense. Don't get me wrong. I think the Chinese system use PEDs but this round of retests actually support the opposite conclusion. To say that bribes were given is take away any legitamcy of testing both against Chinese cleaniness and ex Soviet dopiness.
wlpow 2016-06-21
Americans were not tested and not retested! Your limited knowledge about why all positive tests come from the same countries shows that well! they were hunted and caught thats all! finding false excuses for the poor USA results wont help!
Jerry Ferguson 2016-06-21
Your beloved American lifters are just as dirty as the rest you stunned cunt. How many Americans got retested from four years ago? Oh wait none because they didn't win a damn thing. I'm no longer going to read anything else you write or post.
Fuck yourself idiot
Javier El Sudaca 2016-06-21
HI, nice article. I think the dreamed world of non drougs sports it is like believing in Santa. If there is a way to clean the all athletes from drougs the world recodrs will drop again in a 40% i think. The second point is please dont make american wheighlifters and coachs look like sineless white angels. We know no drugs = no competitive level.
Grettings from Chile
Cpt. Pullyour Headsout 2016-06-21
End Prohibition now! All the IOC accomplished here is disqualifying the best competitors and taking interest away from an already unpopular sport. They're all using steroids anyway. Prohibition doesn't work.
Alexander Krychev 2016-06-21
Nice article Matt. Just want to make a comment on the “provisionally suspended”. All athletes are entitled of due process. There will be court proceedings and depend on the court findings, the suspension will be lifted or upheld. That's why, at the moment, they are provisionally suspended until the due process is finished. You also mentioned Alexey Petrov and the Russian superior court. Now days, athletes, that are implicated in doping, can appeal only in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland where it is impossible to manipulate or influence the final results. I also, want to comment on why all those athletes from Eastern Europe and particularly ex USSR countries got popped. Those countries see the Olympics and other Int'l events as a good platform to show the World their independence and that they are part of the International community. They are paying huge money to the medal winners. In those countries, the sport of Olympic weightlifting is a professional sport. When there is big money in sport, people will always try to win those prices one way or another. Just look at what's going on in the US, football, baseball, track and field, etc. I can't forget Jay Leno, on The Tonight Show, maybe 10-15 years ago, when the entire Iranian weightlifting team got popped. In his monologue, he said, "did you hear about the entire Iranian weightlifters got caught with steroids? Do you know what we call this here in our country? Major League Baseball!" I'm still laughing at this.
Now, something that really bothers me is, why we are hearing only about retests on the weightlifters and not about any other sport, except the Russian track and field team, which seems to me is a political thing. I am suspicious that IOC is paving the road for the Olympic weightlifting to be expelled from the Olympic program. I posted before, in one of Chiroslan's posts, that I want to see all medalists retested from all sports. Where are the retests from the swimmers, track and field sprinters and throwers, bicyclists, etc. Don't tel me you can do 100 meters dash for 9.5 seconds with rice and beans only.
Daniel 2016-06-21
First of all, this is a shakedown from one of the most corrupt sporting organization of them all, the IOC. The operative word being "provisionally", meaning that whichever country pays the substantial monetary fine will most likely have their lifters compete. The IOC knows that Ilya is a national hero in Kazakhstan and they'll do whatever they (Kazakhstan) need to do to keep him eligible. Second, steroids never made anyone a champion. You cannot take drugs and sit on the couch and become Olympic champion. Your training and recovery and nutrition must be rock solid and only then can steroids be of benefit. The same lifters that won in Beijing & London would still be champions were steroids never invented. Now, they'd be lifting less weight for sure, but being a champion is about whats in your heart and whats in your mind.
Lennon 2016-06-22
I don't know how self righteous we can get about clean USA athletes. We're sending Robles to Rio.
rpr 2016-06-22
Years ago, in his famous book on competitive weightlifting, Bill Starr opened the chapter on drug usage with an ancient Chinese proverb: "Man who rides tiger must go where tiger goes." This fact has not changed in any strength sport.
The notion that drug usage is the only (or even primary thing) separating the U.S. from the best in China and Eastern Europe is a chimera.
The vast majority of the Chinese and Eastern European athletes have superb, explosive technique and great flexibility.
Contrast that with some top level U.S. athletes who, while admittedly strong, have technique that is cringe-worthy (as are some of the Iranians).
In the last IWF Worlds in HOU US male athletes finished w/ totals which were 10 - 15% below the winners in their respective classes. Is that difference all drugs?
It cannot be. The world champions of today have not even matched what the Bulgarians & Soviets did back in the 1980's, especially in the Cl&Jk.
David 2016-06-23
So that’s why we haven’t won anything since the 80s.
Let’s look at the other countries that have won medals in that time, ignoring Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, china and Russia, of course.

Iran, Italy, Moldova, Britain, Greece, Armenia, Korea
Australia, Japan, Canada, Indonesia, France, Belarus
Korea, Columbia, Cuba, Venezuela, Turkey, Croatia
Azerbaijan, Germany, Romania

Yeah, a lot of countries there with governments pouring money into sophisticated drug programs.
Real solution, we need to get our heads out of our a**e and stop being the spoilt kid who always needs something or someone else to blame other than themselves.
Rodri 2016-06-23
It's really disappointing realizing that drug-free weightlifting seems to be imposible these days
is there something normal people can do that can help clean at least a little the sport?
I mean there are a lot of people that want a clean sport bit it seems de can do nothing, only the olympic comittee
Selma Mueller 2016-06-23
you know, there are strong european weightlifting programs with drug testing as strict as in the us or even stricter... think germany. we feel the same way about the eastern european lifters getting popped as you over there do. there is a reason why you and we usually do not win but get 8th or tenth or something like that on international stages.
zarna 2016-06-23
In regard to talent pool. I recent realized that charis chan was national record holder at 53kg women for snatch with 89kg before she was popped. even though she be roiding. It speaks to the shallow talent pool
Misbah Haque 2016-06-25
There's enormous integrity in being a clean lifter in the U.S. in my opinion. I was talking to a college baseball player the other day and he was telling me how easy it is now to get your hands on peds. As popularity and incentives continue to grow in U.S. Weightlifting, I'm sure we'll see lifters getting caught. But for now, it's a pretty awesome thing to watch clean U.S. lifters kicking ass. There's pride in being able to say that.
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