China, Russia and seven other leading nations have been banned for a year and will miss the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Anaheim, as well as next year’s Summer Youth Olympic Games, Junior World Championships, Asian Games and their own Continental Championships.
The bans, due to start in mid-October, were announced in Bucharest today by the IWF, whose Executive Board made a strong statement of intent in the fight to retain the sport’s Olympic status.
Weightlifting is suffering from what Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), called a "massive doping problem".
Bach has demanded a "satisfactory” report from the IWF, by December, setting out how the governing body intends to deal with doping in future.
The decision to ban these nine is the first sign of a more hardline approach, but it came with a message of encouragement to the worst offenders, who will be given help to change their doping culture.
All nine banned nations had three or more of the 49 positives revealed when the IOC retested samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing and London.
Of those 49, all but six came from former Soviet Bloc countries, where the doping culture is most embedded.
The IWF voted unanimously in June last year, at an Executive Board meeting in Tbilisi in Georgia, to suspend any nation with three or more Olympic retest positives.
A "Tbilisi Commission"comprising Germany’s Christian Baumgartner, Britain’s Mike Irani and Peru’s Jose Quinones investigated the nine nations and their findings, with a recommendation to implement the bans, were presented in Bucharest.
The complete list is: Russia and Kazakhstan with 10 positives each, Belarus seven, Azerbaijan five, Armenia four and Turkey, Ukraine, China and Moldova three each.
Delays in procedure - the last of the 49 cases was not closed by the IOC until August this year - plus a stream of appeals and lengthy legal arguments at the Court of Arbitration for Sport led to the suspensions being held off.
The decision to implement them was finally taken at the Athenee Palace Hilton in the Romanian capital on the first day of a two-day extraordinary meeting of the Executive Board, regarded by many in the sport as the most important decision-making meeting in decades.
Russia had also been banned from last year’s Olympic Games for multiple offences that had “brought weightlifting into disrepute”.
Tamás Aján, president of the IWF, said, "At the IWF 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.
"If they do not fulfil 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, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency ) and their National Anti-Doping Agencies to support their anti-doping activities and help make cultural change.
"There is no doubt that the IWF Anti-Doping Programme has advanced enormously since Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
"The culture of the sport has already changed in many places over the last ten years, but we are committed to doing more and we will do more.
"Through our Clean Sport Commission we are not just looking at how we overcome current issues but how we can innovate with new testing and anti-doping measures for the benefit of all sport."
That Clean Sport Commission, established recently, features five independent experts from laboratories, anti-doping agencies, and one of the world’s leading sports lawyers, the American Richard Young.
The Commission will report to the IWF and, over the next 10 weeks, advise on the report to be submitted to the IOC.
The IWF World Championships will be held in Anaheim in California from November 28 until December 5.
The absence of so many top nations means there will be medal contenders from some unlikely nations, among them Iraq, Cuba, Tunisia and Turkmenistan.