Ineligible weightlifters from the home nation, Turkmenistan, are being allowed to take part in the 2018 World Championships ©Ashgabat 2018

Ineligible weightlifters from the home nation, Turkmenistan, are being allowed to take part in the World Championships after a controversial vote by the Executive Board of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

It is believed the decision was made against the advice of the IWF Secretariat, who advised that the hosts should be treated the same as everybody else.

The Board has effectively voted against its own rules, as the IWF regulations clearly state that only eligible athletes "may participate".

Throughout 2018, the IWF has clamped down on lifters who fail to update their whereabouts information on the global anti-doping database, which is operated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and is an important tool for out-of-competition testing.

This strict approach - in line with other tough policies adopted by the IWF - led to about 100 athletes being barred from a range of events including the Pan American Championships, the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games and the IWF World Championships, which started in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat on Thursday (November 1).

By far the biggest number of exclusions was for the World Championships, with 79 athletes told they were ineligible because of their failure to log their whereabouts information on the Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS).

But an exception has been made for four of them, all men from Turkmenistan, and while the other 75 are excluded, those four locals have been put on the start list as "extras".

They are not good enough to compete in the A groups and would not be allowed to win any medals, but under World Championships regulations they should not be taking part at all.

Regulation 14 of this IWF event states that any athlete who has not provided "accurate and complete" information about their whereabouts for the past three months is not eligible.

The Turkmenistan athletes had not done so.

Yesterday, the IWF released an updated version of its Technical and Competition Rules and Regulations, which took effect from Thursday. 

Rule states: "At IWF World Championships, only those athletes whose eligibility is confirmed by the IWF may participate."

The decision followed a controversial vote by the IWF Executive Board ©IWF
The decision followed a controversial vote by the IWF Executive Board ©IWF

One senior source within the sport was furious with the Board’s decision and said: "This makes no sense whatsoever and it could have far-reaching consequences.

"All this year there have been absences because of whereabouts problems, all year the offenders were not allowed in - and now this.

"Some of the Board members thought the rules should be relaxed because Turkmenistan is the host nation, but that makes no sense.

"They are not competing but that makes no difference, because they are here and lifting and the rules say they cannot participate.

"They are participating - it’s just wrong."

Turkmenistan originally had a team of 20 athletes, but now has only eight, plus the four extras - a clear indication that it is one of the many nations which has failed to master the requirements of ADAMS despite repeated reminders from the IWF Secretariat.

Officials from Iran and the Philippines said athletes should be given some leeway rather than be barred outright when ADAMS was discussed at the IWF Congress on Wednesday (October 31).

But the President of a nation with a clean doping record said: "The IWF should have been stricter in the past and certainly must be very hard on this subject now.

"There is no way we can catch cheats without the whereabouts information."

Another federation's President, a "clean sport" campaigner, described the situation as "four Turkmen of the apocalypse" and said: "The basic principle has been violated - a precedent has been set and for sure we will come to regret it."

A few days before the start of competition Attila Adamfi, director general of the IWF, told insidethegames: "If you want to compete, you have to submit your whereabouts.

"We are not only making tough rules, we are strictly enforcing the rules."

Omarguly Handurdyyev is one of four extras from Turkmenistan and will compete in the men's 61kg category ©IWF
Omarguly Handurdyyev is one of four extras from Turkmenistan and will compete in the men's 61kg category ©IWF

In reponse to questions from insidethegames, the IWF pointed out that the "extras" would still be subject to doping control and released a statement saying: "For the 2018 IWF World Championships, 79 athletes from 27 countries were ruled to be ineligible to compete due to a lack of whereabouts information.

"Among these was a small number of athletes from the host country who remain ineligible to compete but who will nevertheless be allowed to participate in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and also to lift on the stage - with their results not being registered.

"In order to provide assistance to the athletes, the IWF already amended its Technical and Competition Rules and Regulations to ensure an improved entry process, including the eligibility check."

It is believed that several Executive Board members and IWF senior staff wanted to keep the Turkmens out but after a prolonged discussion, members from nations who see themselves as allies of Turkmenistan won the argument.

The IWF had taken a hard-line approach in an attempt to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to keep weightlifting on the Olympic schedule beyond Tokyo 2020.

It has introduced a new anti-doping policy, new weight classes, and a strict Olympic qualifying programme that compels athletes to undergo rigorous and frequent testing.

The qualifying policy, strongly supported by the IOC, punishes past offenders by reducing Olympic quota places for nations with the worst doping records over the past 10 years.

It is those nations' actions that are largely responsible for putting the sport’s Olympic future in jeopardy.

Some of these nations, it is believed, led the voting to allow the Turkmens in.

"They know they can’t get more Olympic places because the IOC supports the qualification policy," a source said.

"So they want to make life as difficult as they can for [Tamás] Aján (President of the IWF)."

The four "extras" are Omarguly Handurdyyev in the 61 kilograms category, Pirguly Pirgulyyev and Izzatbek Meredov in the 89kg and Ovez Ovezov in the 102kg.