Six Pakistani weightlifters have been provisionally suspended after being charged with doping offences ©Getty Images

Pakistan faces a lengthy ban from weightlifting after six members of its national team were charged with doping offences by the International Testing Agency (ITA).

All six have been provisionally suspended and three of them are thus barred from competing at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, for which they had qualified.

Among them is Talha Talib, Pakistan's best weightlifter in decades who finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year after being given a tripartite invitation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Talib was Pakistan's first-ever medallist at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships last December, and was favourite to win 67kg gold in Birmingham.

He tested positive for norandrosterone, a banned steroid, twice within 12 days last year - out-of-competition on November 29 and then in-competition at the IWF World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he was a snatch bronze medallist.

Abubakar Ghani also tested positive in Tashkent for the prohibited hormone and metabolic modulator tamoxifen metabolite.

Ghani was 13th at 61kg in the IWF World Championships and based on the rankings, he had an outside chance of medal in Birmingham.

Sharjeel Butt, ranked second at 55kg, was a strong Commonwealth Games medal hope for Pakistan.

He has been provisionally suspended after being charged under Article 2.3 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules, which covers "evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection".

The ITA, which carries out all anti-doping procedures for the IWF. was acting on intelligence when it carried out its tests.

The charges were the result of "a joint ITA and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation, initiated on the basis of ITA intelligence" on November 10 last year.

The four who have been charged with evading or refusing to submit a sample on that date are Butt, Ghulam Mustafa, Abdur Rehman and Farhan Amjad.

There are no results listed on the IWF website for Ghulam.

Talha Talib finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year ©Getty Images
Talha Talib finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year ©Getty Images

Rehman was Asian youth champion at 77kg in 2015 and Farhan was sixth in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

An ITA statement said: "All six athletes have been informed of the cases and have been provisionally suspended until the resolution of the matters.  

"During the period of provisional suspension, the athletes cannot inter alia participate in any capacity in any competition or any other activity either at the international or national level organised by any signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code.

"The prosecution of the cases is also being handled entirely by the ITA.

"Given that the cases are underway, there will be no further comments during the ongoing proceedings."

Under the IWF's rules, Pakistan faces a severe punishment if the charges are proven.

Any nation with three or more doping offences within a year is liable to be banned for up to four years and fined up to $500,000.

The severity of the punishment depends on "both the seriousness of the underlying anti-doping rule violations and the gravity of the circumstances surrounding the case".

Pakistan's chances of sending a team to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games appear to be very slim.

Those members of the Pakistan team who are not suspended are currently at a training camp in Lahore.

Pakistan has three athletes at the Commonwealth Games who have not been charged with any offence - Nooh Butt in the super-heavyweights, where he is a strong medal contender, Hanzala Dastigir Butt at 109kg, and Haider Ali at 81kg.

It has no female athletes qualified for Birmingham 2022.

Pakistan is also preparing a team for the Islamic Games in Konya, Turkey, scheduled to be held from August 9-18.

The Pakistan Weightlifting Federation did not reply to a request for comment by insidethegames.