A number of elite Russian national weightlifters are finding themselves on the outside of the world’s largest weightlifting competition – the IWF World Championships – after popping positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Interestingly enough, however, these suspensions weren’t handed down by an independent organization or international governing body the way they have been in the past. Instead, the Russian Weightlifting Federation decided to get out ahead of this issue themselves and handed down the four year suspensions themselves.
This is pretty unique, as anyone that has been paying attention to the numerous performance-enhancing drug scandals involving Russian nationals is well aware of.
In the last two Olympics, the Russian national team has been devastated during competition after the overwhelming majority of their superstar athletes were found to be ineligible to compete for the Russian team after widescale and widespread doping (led by the Russians) had been uncovered.
For the Russians now to be the ones that are handing down suspensions on their own athletes, rather than helping to “move things along” and giving their athletes every opportunity to hide their performance-enhancing drug use is an interesting spin and a new direction.
Four individual athletes – Roman Rednikin, Valeriy Temnik, Fatima Umakhanova and Sergey Oreshnikov – were all found to have violated the Russian Anti-Doping Rules that they have been established by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
Two of the individual athletes had been found to be using performance-enhancing drugs after their urine was found to be “hot” for a number of banned substances, whereas the other two that have been suspended simply refused completely to provide any urine or blood samples to the anti-doping control officers.
According to the rules and regulations of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, any athlete that refuses to submit to these tests will have been considered to have failed these tests as though they had popped positive themselves.
None of these athletes are going to have the opportunity to compete at the upcoming 2018 IWF World Championships, but more than that none of these athletes are going to have an opportunity to compete during any sanctioned weightlifting contest while representing Russia until at least the fall of 2022.
This new direction for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and its proactive stance at weeding out athletes using performance-enhancing drugs likely kicked off with the two Olympics that had them suffering significant sanctions, but it also likely had to do with the fact that the entirety of the Russian national team was banished from competition at the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California.
One of nine individual countries that had been suspended completely from international competition for a full 12 months, no one from the Russian team was eligible to compete due to widespread and rampant doping that had been taking place.
Just one of seven different post-USSR states that had been suspended for competition at the IWF, the Russians were banned alongside athletes from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and the Ukraine. These countries found themselves automatically banished from the 2017 competition because each of them had been individually sanctioned three or more times for Anti-Doping Rules Violations.
Even though the Russians were missing four of their top-tier athletes, they were still able to take home a significant amount of gold medals. Five individual gold medals were won at the 2018 IWF World Championships, with these gold medals being one by two individual Russian weightlifters that dominated their events.
If history is any indication, the Russians will move on quickly from the athletes that have been suspended from competition for the next four years. They’ll be replaced with new, hungry, and (ideally) compliant athletes that will be plugged into the Russian system that continues to produce some of the world’s strongest and most athletic individuals in international competition.