More than 70 weightlifters who failed to log their own whereabouts on the global anti-doping database have been barred from the World Championships in Ashgabat ©IWF

More than 70 weightlifters who failed to log their own whereabouts on the global anti-doping database have been barred from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships, which start next week in Ashgabat.

"This is very disappointing," said Attila Adamfi, the IWF director general who pointed out that member federations should know all the rules.

Other athletes are missing for different reasons - in the case of Fiji it is because all of the nation's top lifters have distanced themselves from their National Federation and set up their own unaffiliated body, which means they cannot compete internationally.

Azerbaijan, which has had four positives in the past six months, is sending only two athletes while Malaysia, which has had three, is not sending any.

But when competition starts on Thursday (November 1) the IWF still expects a record entry of around 650 athletes from 92 nations at the World Championships, the first qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

With weightlifting's place as an Olympic sport beyond 2020 under threat because of its past doping record, the IWF has introduced tough qualifying rules and a new anti-doping policy.

The IWF has issued frequent warnings to athletes and their National Federations about updating their whereabouts information on the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) operated by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Despite those warnings, which included public statements on the IWF website in June and September and monthly reminders, many athletes failed to comply and cannot compete in Turkmenistan.

Tom Goegebuer called the ADAMS system
Tom Goegebuer called the ADAMS system "user unfriendly" ©Getty Images

The worst affected area is thought to be Oceania, but athletes from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe are also at fault.

"The IWF is determined to protect clean athletes by not only introducing tough rules, but also strictly enforcing them," Adamfi said.

"The IWF strictly monitors the whereabouts information of athletes before IWF events.

"This year several athletes were ineligible to compete at different events all around the world because they failed to comply with their whereabouts obligation.

"Recently seven athletes from six countries were ineligible to participate at the Youth Olympic Games, and it is the same here [in Ashgabat], where more than 70 athletes from 26 countries are ineligible to compete.

"This is very disappointing, considering that beside the Anti-Doping Policy, that should be known by our members, presentations were made at IWF Congresses and education seminars, and every month we send all member federations a reminder."

There have been changes in the ADAMS system which, according to many who are on it, is not user-friendly - especially in parts of the world where communications are difficult.

"It has changed in the past six to nine months," said Paul Coffa, general secretary of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation.

"It has become very difficult for islands who have problems with internet connections and phones.

"User names and passwords are no longer sent by email, and you need to download a special app to scan a code."

Some federations simply did not realise the importance of what they were being told and, said Coffa, "it has been a very important lesson learned for the Pacific countries".

Tom Goegebuer, President of the Belgian federation and three times an Olympian, represents athletes on the IWF's Clean Sport Commission.

He said the ADAMS system had barely been changed in 10 years and was "very user unfriendly".

He added: "There are some issues and it needs updates and changes, but the IWF is right in applying a uniform rule for everyone.

"I hope that all concerned, athletes and federations, will get everything running properly for the next big events."

In Fiji, there appears to be no chance of an end to the dispute between the National Federation, based in the capital, Suva, and the elite weightlifters, who are all from the island of Levuka.

Fiji is the host nation for the IWF Junior World Championships next year but has no international team after the elite lifters said in a public statement that they had "decided to separate completely from Weightlifting Fiji (WF) and establish a new organisation".

The lifters complained of "bullying tactics and disrespect" from the WF board, led by Atma Maharaj, who suspended the athletes when they refused to relocate to Suva for training under a newly appointed Iranian coach.

Eileen Cikamatana would have been a gold medal hope for Fiji ©Getty Images
Eileen Cikamatana would have been a gold medal hope for Fiji ©Getty Images

Maharaj refutes their claims and said the athletes had been "manipulated by others with an agenda".

The biggest victim of the dispute is outstanding teenager Eileen Cikamatana, who trains at the Oceania Institute in New Caledonia and who would have been a gold medal contender in Ashgabat in the new 81 kilograms category.

Cikamatana, 19, was a silver medallist at the World Juniors last year, and is the Oceania and Commonwealth Games champion in the now defunct 90kg class.

She weighs around 82kg and has lifted 50kg more than the current top entry in Ashgabat at 81kg, the Belgian Anna Vanbellinghen.

Cikamatana complained of "systematic bullying tactics" - a claim denied by Maharaj - and said: "What am I, a commercial product for the five executive members running weightlifting in Fiji?

"I have done my share for Fiji - gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, gold medal at the Asian Indoor Games, gold medal at Oceania Championships, gold medals at Commonwealth Championships, gold medals at the Pacific Mini Games, gold medal at the World Youths, silver medal at the World Juniors.

"And in return, what do I get? 

"A suspension for refusing to train with an Iranian coach and being denied the opportunity to win the World Juniors and World Seniors this year, and consequently missing out on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

"So what do they have left now?

"They have no coach - he's gone back to Iran - no world class lifters, no regional class lifters. 

"They have lost everything.

"They will lose at least nine gold medals at next year's Pacific Games and they have taken from me the opportunity of winning two world junior titles, two world senior titles and the Olympics.

"The Executive Board have taken away my rights to make any decision for myself.

"It is simply criminal."

The most likely outcome now seems to be that Cikamatana will compete under another flag, as she has had offers to switch nationality. 

Ilya Ilyin, the Kazakh who was stripped of two Olympic gold medals for doping, returns to international competition in Ashgabat in the 102kg category, in which he has posted an impressive entry of 400kg.

Ilya Ilyin, stripped of two Olympic gold medals, will be in Ashgabat ©Getty Images
Ilya Ilyin, stripped of two Olympic gold medals, will be in Ashgabat ©Getty Images

Another disqualified Olympic medallist, Cristina Iovu, also makes her return, competing for Romania in the 55kg class.

Iovu, 26, has competed for three nations - Moldova, Azerbaijan and now Romania.

She forfeited her 53kg bronze for Moldova from London 2012, and also tested positive for Azerbaijan in 2013 but, like Ilyin, has won a legal case to be able to compete again.

The class with the most entries is the women’s 64kg, with 65, while there are only five entries in the 45kg and 81kg women's events - numbers that are likely to change when entry verifications are announced on Tuesday (October 30).

In the high-quality men's 81kg the top six entries, all former 77kg lifters - including the 2012 Olympic champion Lu Xiaojun of China, the 2017 world champion Ihab Mohamed of Egypt, the 2017 world junior champion Yeison Lopez of Colombia, and the 20-year-old Chinese national champion Li Dayin - are separated by only 2kg.