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Paul Coffa: How Much More Can Weightlifting Take?

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Photo: AFP Hector Retamal

How much more can we take? This is the question that almost 120 weightlifting countries – if not more – are asking.

In the past, we used to have the Soviet Bloc. Now we do not have the Soviet Bloc any more, we have the Doping Bloc. Is it possible that these doping countries do not want to understand that doping offences are ruining weightlifting and there is no way that 120 countries – or more – will put up with this totally unacceptable situation in the future?

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) is taking a strong stance currently and it took a strong stance in the past, by applying heavy fines and individual disqualification and suspensions. But it appears these countries have no difficulties in paying these heavy monetary penalties.

So, what is the alternative? Are the sanctions that the IWF apply enough? Obviously not, because they keep re-offending and it is getting worse. Doping is like cancer. It is ruining our life and ruining our sport.

So sanctioning the lifters, sanctioning the clubs to which the lifters belong, sanctioning the coaches who are coaching these lifters and sanctioning the countries to the point where they are even suspended from participating at the Olympic Games – maybe this is the answer.

The question is, how many positives should warrant these type of actions – two or three maximum?

These doping countries have to realize that there is no place for them in our sport if they do not play the game clean and fair. The rest of the world is not stupid. We know exactly what is happening and we know that this cheating has been going on for years and years.

Like cockroaches you see one or two on top of the carpet, but you can be guaranteed that when you lift that carpet there are hundreds of them.

Look at the 94 kilogram category at the London Olympics. The ninth place will now be receiving the bronze medal. And yet this particular lifter was sent home from Rio 2016 after he failed a test for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone at his National Championships in Poland in July.

What Games do they think they are playing here? These countries who have epidemic cheating have no remorse. They have no regard towards those clean lifters who have missed their rightful opportunity of winning medals at the World Championships and Olympic Games. As a result the clean lifters have missed opportunities of sponsorship, continued Government support and rightful international recognition.

The worst part about this, is that once these countries/individuals do get caught, the process of reanalysis, hearing, disciplinary decision and medal reallocation seems to take forever, while the clean athlete sits patiently waiting.

Samoan lifter Ele Opeloge. Photo: abc.net.au
Samoan lifter Ele Opeloge. Photo: abc.net.au

Take our region superstar Ele Opeloge from Samoa. Earlier this year, everyone found out through the media that the second and third place in the over-75kg category at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games had returned adverse analytic findings in the reanalysis of their samples. Seven months later, Ele, and Samoa, is still waiting for something to happen.

Ele retired from lifting a couple of years ago. She now lives with her husband and child in New Zealand. After eight years she is still waiting for procedures to be finalized: in the end, what will this medal actually mean to her?

Is it just an inclusion of her name in the adjusted list? Because this woman has missed out on every opportunity which would have been made available to her had she been the recipient of the Olympic medal in Beijing.

What I cannot digest is the promotion given to these lifters, their coaches and their countries, who inevitably return positive analysis. This has been going on for years and years. It is a disgrace.

The Oceania region has been criticized for many years, even from within the IWF, for not producing so called world-class results.

Our lifters are good, our lifters are clean, our lifters play the game fair. Let the cheats play the game fair and let’s see how good they are then on an equal playing field.

The quicker we get rid of this cancer and these cockroaches, the better it will be for our sport.

By Paul Coffa

Paul Coffa, MBE, has been involved in weightlifting for more than 50 years as lifter, coach and administrator. He is general secretary of both the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and the Commonwealth Weightlifting Federation. This article is republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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