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News update: The latest anti-doping stories in weightlifting

Doping and performance enhancing drugs is a huge topic in sport and with three big news stories currently on doping and weightlifting we thought it was worth discussing!

1) IOC lifts conditional ban on olympic weightlifting for 2024 Paris Olympics

2) Thailand still hosting 2019 world championships despite taking voluntary ban for doping violations

3) Sonny Webster’s ban extended by 3 year for further rule violations & risk of weightlifting athletes receiving bans due to prohibited association

1) Weightlifting to feature in the 2024 Paris Olympics

Starting with the good news concerning weightlifting and doping!

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has noted the progress that the IWF has made in Anti-Doping recently and lifted the conditional inclusion of weightlifting in the 2024 Olympics to be held in Paris.

In simple terms what this means is that the IOC had previously threatened to remove weightlifting from the Olympic program should the significant doping problem not be dealt with, and have now decided that a lot of progress has been made to resolve the issues.

The probation period from the IOC was put in place following 49 athletes coming up positive from re-tested samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics! Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Belarus accounting for 130 violations!

The IOC recognised that the IWF has been making huge efforts to ensure that the sport is clean and to protect clean athletes.

A good example of this is American athlete Mattie Rogers being moved up to silver medal position in the 2017 World Championships after Albanian athlete Romela Begaj was given an 8 year doping ban. It should be noted that due to Begaj becoming the 10th Albanian suspension for doping since 2011, Albania will now receive a cut in their quota for the 2020 Olympic games too, showing how serious the IWF is about cutting doping!

IOC reviewed the steps taken by IWF to strengthen its anti-doping effort, and long term initiatives to clean up the sport. This focused largely on the new qualification process for the 2020 Olympics, discussed below but also:

  • Stricter anti-doping policies and procedures

  • Improved sampling and testing methods

  • Encouraging athletes to take the anti-doping education courses

  • A new agreement between the IWF and International Testing Agency (ITA) which sees key areas of the IWF’s anti-doping program taken on by the ITA. The IOC has stated that until this part happens later this year then the inclusion of weightlifting on the 2024 program is still conditional...

The IWF released a statement concerning the lifting of the probation:

“The IWF’s commitment to clean competition has transformed our sport. We see weightlifters competing in new bodyweight categories for new world records and from a wider variety of countries than ever before. Weightlifting is the only sport that specifically rewards countries that have a track record of clean competition with chances to compete at the Olympic Games thanks to our Tokyo 2020 qualifying system. And our commitment to culture change has seen the universal implementation of a widespread set of education programmes” - IWF President Tamas Ajan.

The IWF Qualifying Procedure for Tokyo 2020:

The qualification period for the 2020 olympics is the 18 months leading up to the games. However the IWF chose to include doping bans from 2008 all the way up to the 2020 Olympics in order to target the countries most responsible for the current problems. The positions given to athletes at the games are to be split evenly between men and women’s categories, with 8 being the maximum number of places. This is a historical event in equality in the sport with Tokyo being the first Olympics where women have been given equal positions to men for Weightlifting

  • Countries with 20+ doping violations from 2008-2020: Given only 2 places (applies already to Russian, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus)

  • Countries with 10-19 doping violations from 2008-2020: Given 4 places (already 9 countries in this category, including Bulgaria, Iran and India, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Uzbekistan)

  • Countries with less than 10 bans: can send up to 8 athletes (China currently in this category but have 7 bans)

  • Countries with 3 positives in the 18 month qualifying period for 2020 olympics: Face disqualification from the games (similar to what happened to Russia for the Rio olympics) - this now applies to Thailand

  • Countries with 3+ positives in a calendar year face bans of up to 4 years

The creation of these rule means that weightlifting will be cut from a quota of 260 athletes in the 2016 olympics to just 196 for 2020.

Qualifying has also changed from a team based system to individual system meaning that more athletes will be tested leading up to the Olympics. Olympic hopefuls must compete in 6 high level competitions in the 18 month qualifying period. This means that athletes are now not able to tactically avoid the chance of being tested at competitions leading up to the games. Famously Ilya Ilyin was banned following retrospective tests showing positives for both the 2008 and 2012 olympics – Ilyin only competed 6 times between 2006-2012 besides his Olympic performances!!

2) Doping in Thailand and the hosting of the 2019 World Championship

Thailand finished second in the medal table for the 2018 world championships behind china. They have now become the first country to be banned from competing at the 2020 olympics.

Thailand has voluntarily banned it’s athletes from competing at both the 2019 world championships and the 2020 Olympics. However the country will still host the 2019 world championships as voted by the IWF exec board. Countries suspended by the IWF are banned from hosting IWF events, but as Thailand banned themselves the IWF committee made the decision to allow the event to go ahead in Pattaya mainly due to the logistical difficulties of moving a planned event with less than 6 months notice.

Eight Thai weightlifters were banned for positive test results following retesting of samples taken at the 2018 worlds, seven of which are female athletes. Two of these athletes are reigning Olympics champions, and three won gold medals at said world championship. Only 1 of the 6 Thai women who won medals in Ashgabat is still free to compete (45kg bronze medallist Chirapham Nanthawaong).

Thailand’s doping story provides an interesting case with regards to the general issue of state sponsored doping. Two of the athletes suspended from the 2018 world championships, previous Olympic champions, Sukanya Srisurat and Sopita Tanasan have already previously been banned from 2011-2013 for doping! After the suspensions were announced the Thai governing body for weightlifting, TAWA, stated that they were “greatly surprised and confused” and were to hold an internal investigation - the result of which we eagerly anticipate.

Other bans include 49kg world champion Chayuttra Pramongkhol (positive for testosterone) and 64kg bronze medallist Rattanawan Wamalun (positive for androstane), Thunya Sukcharoen the 45kg gold medallist, Chitchanok Pulsabsakul (previously banned in 2011), Duanganksnorn Chiadee super-heavyweight bronze medallist and the only male athlete 17 year old Teerapat Chomcheun!!

Some of the bans were announced during Thailand’s hosting of the EGAT’s cup, another Olympic Qualifying event. Incidentally Thailand had not entered any female athletes in to this event!

3) Prohibited Association - The Importance of Knonwing the Anti-Doping Rules and Lessons to be Learnt from Sonny Webster's Case

This is a very important topic to us as a club as we feel that many people may not be aware of some of the rule violations raised by the case of Sonny Webster. Some things that may not seem like a big deal to you could actually cost you a great deal in your weightlifting progress!

I’m sure as british weightlifting fans most people reading this will be aware of Sonny Webster and his 4 year ban for positive test results for ostarine. You may or may not also be aware than he has received a further 3 year ban this week for breaking the conditions of his ban!

Athletes who are serving bans from their sport are not allowed to act in any supporting role to current athletes. Just as current athletes are not allowed to receive support from banned individuals.

UKAD investigatedthe case which was bought to their attention of Webster coaching weightlifting for money whilst on a ban from the sport.

UKAD monitor the activity of all banned athletes and support personnel, so any detected prohibited involvement is punished accordingly. As with all anti-doping rule violations, the athlete or athlete support personnel are solely responsible for their actions, and also

must be fully aware of the rule violations and the actions they must take to

avoid breaking them! This means you should be aware of banned athletes and personnel

in order to avoid rule violations, just as much as you should be aware of

banned substances.

UKAD and anti-doping policy works under the strict policy of ‘strict liablity’ – every person is solely responsible for their actions. These rules also go for BWL licensced clubs - who should not permit banned athletes to train there. And athletes looking for remote or in person coaching who should not seek coaching from banned athletes

In UKAD’s statement they stated "hopefully this case serves as a warning to those serving bans that any athletes committing further violations during the term of that ban will result in additional and significant sanctions."

It is important that if you wish to be a BWL member and compete in their sanctioned competitions particularly if you wish to reach a high level, you must be aware of the

Prohibited association rules!!

As well as Sonny receiving an increase on his ban, BWL athletes who he was coaching received letters warning them of Prohibited Association rule violations.

A perfect example is now that the New Zealand governing body of weightlifting (OWNZ –

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand) has introduced a very uncommon blanket ruling on giving 2 year bans to any NGB registered athletes who attend Sonny’s $250 seminars whilst he is in New Zealand. Written notice was sent to all member athletes warning them of the suspensions they could face by attending the seminar, due to breaking prohibited association rules, and reminding them that “regardless of their competition level, as OWNZ members, they are bound by these rules”


"DFSNZ has become aware that Sonny Webster will be in New Zealand in December 2018 offering coaching seminars. The seminars will potentially cover aspects of weightlifting. His ban prohibits him from participating in sport in any capacity, which includes coaching athletes who are bound to [New Zealand's Sports Anti-Doping Rules].

This letter notifies you that you are prohibited from associating in any professional capacity with Mr Sonny Webster.

Having now received this notice, should you breach this rule, you would be

committing an anti-doping rule violation and could be banned from sport for up

to two years."


Rightly, the New Zealand governing body decided that it would be negligent for them to have not properly advised their athletes against breaking these rules. British weightlifting have also previously released a statement reminding BWL members to not associate with Webster (

It is surprising to us that other countries have not previously done the same as Webster has been touring the world off the back of his social media fame, teaching these lifting seminars.

Despite him “targeting” the crossfit communities, as he is a well known ex-weightlifter it should be expected that weightlifters who are not aware of rule violations would attend. Crossfit adheres to the companies own self goverened testing procedures which of course are not as rigourous as other sports.

To help clarify the terms of this particular anti-doping rule violation the terms of prohibited association are discussed below:

“If you know that someone is serving an anti-doping ban, and you associate with that person in a “professional or sport related capacity”, then you are at real risk of violating the

Prohibited Association Rule” – for first violations you can receive up to a TWO

YEAR ban from all sport!

Ways in which you could encounter this violation are:

  • Receiving coaching or training from a banned individual

  • Obtaining advice regarding technique or strategy from a banned individual

  • Obtaining medical advice, treatment or nutritional advice from a banned individual

  • This includes FREE advice/coaching/training/treatments and this list is not exhaustive

Remember that both athletes and support personnel can receive bans from sport so this can also apply to sports doctors etc.

People serving bans are also not allowed to train in NGB approved/affiliated


Please be aware that the information in this article is not an exhaustive explanation of the anti-doping rule violation and that all information concerning it can be found on the UKAD and WADA websites.

If you have any questions about anti-doping please email us at or go straight to UKAD with your concerns here:

We also have a full anti-doping advice booklet on the website under the resources tab!



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