Russia’s world champion Aleksei Lovchev is among 17 athletes who have been suspended for positive drug tests by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) following last month's World Championships in Houston, United States.
Weightlifting has been plagued by doping scandals and the latest raft of names to be released includes several World Championship medallists as well as some who had already been banned.
Twenty-six-year-old Lovchev had made a winning lift of 211 kilograms in the over 105kg snatch event in Houston, before going on to claim the clean and jerk title with 264kg, eclipsing the previous world record mark of 263kg set by Iran’s Hossein Reza Zadeh at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
His two best lifts had also given him enough to surpass another world record held by Reza Zadeh, who amassed 472kg at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, as he sealed the total title with a combined effort of 475kg.
However, Lovchev has now been provisionally suspended after testing positive for the growth hormone ipamorelin, with Estonia’s Mart Seim in line to receive the clean and jerk title while Georgia’s Lasha Talakhadze could claim snatch and total golds should the Russian be stripped of his medals.
Meanwhile, Russia's 75kg lifter Olga Zubova, who earned women's clean and jerk gold with a lift of 156kg, also returned an adverse analytical finding for the anabolic steroid methenolone.
Zubova, who also won bronze in the total event having achieved an overall lift of 276kg, won the total gold at the 2013 World Championships but was stripped of her medal after testing positive for clomiphene, resulting in a two year ban which ended this October.
Under 94kg competitor Aleksei Kosov, who lifted 181kg to claim snatch gold, and women’s under 69kg lifter Olga Afanaseva, have also been suspended after both Russians tested positive for the anabolic steroid dehydromethyltestosterone.
A provisional suspension has also been given to the men’s 94kg clean and jerk and total silver medallist Almas Uteshov, after the Kazakh tested positive for both methenolone and dehydromethyltestosterone.
His team-mate and fellow 94kg lifter Zhassulan Kydyrbayev claimed three bronze medals in Houston but has now tested positive for deyhdrochlormethyltestosterone, having previously served a two-year ban from 2012 to 2014 after returning an adverse analytical finding for stanozolol.
A third Kazakh lifter, Yermek Omitray, has also tested positive for deyhdrochlormethyltestosterone.
Three North Korean competitors have now been provisionally suspended following the Championships after Kim Kwang-song, a silver medallist in the men’s under 77kg snatch and total events, and women’s under 69kg snatch bronze medallist Ryo Un Hui, were notified of positive tests.
The pair, who both had adverse analytical findings for the hormone and metabolic modulator letrozole, follow on from London 2012 under 62 kilogram champion Un Guk Kim, who was suspended earlier this month.
Azerbaijan have now had six weightlifters suspended following the Championships, with men’s under 69kg clean and jerk silver medallist Firudin Guliyev, Intiqam Zairov and Dadash Dabashbayli all testing positive for the anabolic steroid nadrolone.
Zairov’s sample also contained deyhdrochlormethyltestosterone, while Dabashbayli’s included the anabolic steroid boldenone.
Five of the six Azeri weightlifters who have tested positive for banned substances at the Championships could be facing a second ban with Guliyev and Zairov having joined Valentin Hristov, Elkhan Aligulizada and Silviya Angelova in returning from two-year bans earlier this year to return adverse analytical findings again.
After a string of cases in 2013, the Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation were fined a total of $500,000, (£330,000/€460,000) while an investigation into the athletes’ entourage including coaches and team doctors was ordered, but the Federation were not suspended from competition.
On the eve of the event in Houston, the IWF Executive Board decided to ban Bulgaria from competing at Rio 2016 due to multiple positive doping cases during the qualification period, with 11 weightlifters receiving bans from competing at the World Championships after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld punishments imposed by the governing body.
It came after eight male and three female weightlifters tested positive for stanozolol at a training camp for the European Championships in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.
The Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation (BWF) announced earlier this month that it has filed an appeal at the CAS to have the decision overturned, with the ruling expected to be announced at the end of January.
Elsewhere, Belarus’ Aleksandr Venskel and Nastassia Novikava have both tested positive for deyhdrochlormethyltestosterone, with the latter having previously been suspended from competition back in 2005.
Moldova’s Artiom Pipa and Iurie Bulat have also been suspended for the use of the anabolic steroid, along with Greece’s Eftychia Ananiadou.
Despite the total number of positive tests reaching 24 for the Championships the IWF has stated that “the new findings are clear proof how accurate the IWF Anti-Doping Programme is”.