The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has published a new list of anti-doping violations that shows how nations with a poor record are paying the price for their misdemeanours.
A total of 76 possible Olympic quota places have already been lost by 17 nations and that total will increase because Thailand has voluntarily withdrawn from qualifying after eight of its team at last year’s IWF World Championships tested positive.
Armenia is also on the way to losing two more places in Tokyo, as a violation from the London 2012 Olympic Games has not yet been closed by the IWF, and when it is Armenia will exceed the limit of 19 positives.
Any nation with 20 or more positives since the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games is restricted to two places in Tokyo, where ‘clean’ nations can field up to eight lifters.
That ongoing case concerns a transgender athlete, Mel Daluzyan, who has been an outspoken critic of Armenia since leaving in 2016 to claim political asylum in the Netherlands, where he now lives.
Before his gender reassignment, Daluzyan competed in women’s weightlifting as Meline, winning a European title in 2008 and bronze medals at the IWF World Championships in 2006 and 2010.
Daluzyan, 31, was in the news recently after being stabbed while trying to prevent a robbery at a shop in Amsterdam.
As he recovered in hospital, he was described as a “a hero” in reports about the incident.
In an interview for LGBT News, Daluzyan said the situation in Armenia for gay and transgender people was “catastrophic” and complained of “hate propaganda” at the highest levels of Government.
A documentary film about Daluzyan’s troubled life – losing his family, friends and homeland – has just been made in the Netherlands.
Daluzyan has already been disqualified from the women’s 69kg in London by the International Olympic Committee.
Five other retest violations from Beijing and London are still being processed by the IOC and IWF, concerning athletes from Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Romania and Bulgaria.
Two of those violations were by men’s 105kg Olympic champions, the Uzbek Ruslan Nurudinov, who finished fourth in London and won at Rio 2016, and the Ukrainian 2012 winner Oleksiy Torokhtiy.
When these and any subsequent violations are dealt with, the IWF sanctions list will be updated.
“We will publish updated statistics in the coming months,” said Attila Adamfi, director general of the IWF.
“We are trying to be as transparent as possible.”
That transparency was welcomed by Phil Andrews, chief executive of USA Weightlifting, who said: “It’s great to see the IWF proactively and transparently informing nations of ‘where we are’.
“The Olympic qualification system clearly rewards a strong and long-standing commitment to clean sport in a given nation.
"This strategy is innovative in Olympic sport.”
Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Belarus are restricted to two athletes, one male and one female, for Tokyo as they already have more than 20 positives from the “counting period” that started at the Beijing Olympics.
Armenia will join them when the Daluzyan case is closed and the 12 nations with 10 to 20 positives, who can send a maximum of two men and two women to Tokyo, are Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine (all 16 and all with one Olympic violation ongoing), Uzbekistan (15 with one violation ongoing), Egypt, Turkey (both 13), Iran, Moldova (both 12), India (11), Albania, Malaysia and Thailand (10, but Thailand have withdrawn).
Venezuela is on nine, one short of the sanctions limit.
Despite relentless warnings about doping and its consequences – weightlifting’s place on the Olympic Games schedule was under threat because of the problem – three nations had positives at recent continental Championships.
In April, Balikis Otunla of Nigeria tested positive after winning the women’s 81kg at the African Championships, followed by Cristopher Pavon of Honduras at the Pan American Championships (fourth in men’s 102kg), and Nahil Dyab of Syria at the Asian Championships (no total in women’s 71kg).