Doping Controversy at 2016 Olympics increases with Weightlifting
14 August 2016 by Jason Torrance
The 2016 Olympic Games are well under way, but it feels as though a day has not gone by without the issue of doping arising. Before the Games had even begun, the build-up was dominated by doubts over Russian participation. Once it had started swimming took centre-stage as two convicted dopers won gold and silver medals, and now the weightlifting has begun the issue has become even more prominent.
In June, the International Weightlifting Federation determined that those nations whose athletes retrospectively tested positively from either the 2008 Beijing or 2012 London Olympic Games should be banned from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, pending confirmation from the International Olympic Committee. Subsequently, the IOC passed such responsibility onto the World Anti-Doping Agency, who stated that there was insufficient time with which to re-test the samples of athletes suspected of doping at the previous two Olympics. Many of these samples provided in Beijing and London may be re-tested after Rio 2016, but by then it will be too late to stop any athletes who do retrospectively test positive from competing.
WADA and the IOC are able to re-test samples taken at previous Olympics due to the statute of limitations, which allows for doping offences committed at any point in the previous 10 years to be pursued and prosecuted. Samples are frozen once the initial testing at the time has been completed to avoid any sample degradation, and then if a request for re-analysis is made these samples can be analysed using the latest detection techniques. This is of great benefit to anti-doping authorities given that scientific advances allow detection of substances in samples that were not detected when the sample was initially obtained. Such testing has seen numerous retrospective bans imposed on athletes. According to a recent Guardian article, since the Beijing Olympics 29 weightlifters have retrospectively tested positive, 26 from the old Soviet bloc and the remaining 3 from Turkey, including five Kazakhstan athletes who won gold medals.
The statute of limitations has also successfully been used in non-analytical matters, most notably that of Lance Armstrong who, despite having never tested positive, albeit there were rumours of a cover up concerning one particular sample, has since been banned for life after testimony from numerous former colleagues.
Had the IOC confirmed the initial proposal by the IWF, 3 of the women due to compete in the 69kg competition final, two from Belarus and one from Turkey, would not have been able to do so.
Since the commencement of the Rio Games, the European men’s 94kg champion, from Poland, tested positive for the steroid nandralone. Another Polish weightlifter was found to have levels of human growth hormone in his system that were above those typically expected and has subsequently not travelled to Rio. This has led to the resignation of the Polish Weightlifting Federation President, a former silver medallist at two Olympic Games who himself was banned for doping in 2004, again for testing positive for nandralone.
Weight lifters from Bulgaria and Russia have already been excluded from competing.
This is clearly an issue that will not go away anytime soon, particularly when one considers the enormous potential benefits that can be derived from doping in a power sport such as weightlifting.
If you are an athlete or athlete support person and find yourself in a similar situation, Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP can help in this niche area of the law.
We can advise athletes and athlete support personnel throughout the course of anti-doping proceedings and provide expert representation.
We are also able to assist National Governing Bodies meet their regulatory duties and ensure that their anti-doping rules, practices and procedures are in line with those of UK Anti-Doping.
For expert advice on anti-doping, please contact Jason Torrance on firstname.lastname@example.org.