Russia, China among 9 top weightlifting countries suspended

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Russia and China were among nine countries suspended from weightlifting for a year on Saturday in an attempt to combat an epidemic of doping.

The sport has been under pressure to clean up or face being dropped from the Olympics.

The decision by the International Weightlifting Federation followed the retesting of anti-doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Countries with at least three doping offenses from those Olympics were suspended. The IWF started pursuing the suspensions before last year’s Olympics, but the process was held up by legal challenges.

Also suspended were Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine.

”We have made it clear that the incidence of doping in some areas is totally unacceptable and that our members have a responsibility to ensure clean sport in their countries,” IWF president Tamas Ajan said in a statement.

”If they do not fulfill their responsibilities to ensure their lifters are clean then they will lose their right to participate. But we will not turn our backs on them; we will continue to work with them, (the World Anti-Doping Agency), and their national anti-doping agencies to support their anti-doping activities and help make cultural change.”

The suspensions could mean a drastically weakened world championships, scheduled from Nov. 28 through Dec. 6 in Anaheim, California.

The IWF said there wouldn’t be any exceptions from the ban to allow individual athletes from the suspended countries to compete, regardless of whether they’ve ever failed a drug test. Athletics has allowed some athletes from Russia to compete as independents during its ban from that sport for systemic doping.

”The countries will receive official notification about the suspension mid-October and at the IWF there is no possibility to compete as neutral or independent,” IWF spokeswoman Lilla Rozgonyi told The Associated Press in a text message.

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