There is a danger that Nooh Butt's Birmingham 2022 gold medal could turn out to be the last major weightlifting title for Pakistan for some time ©Getty Images

The Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWLF), which faces exclusion from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, has vowed to ignore a "biased, arbitrary and unfair" ban imposed by a Government body which found "serious irregularities in its functioning, corrupt practices and violation of the anti-doping code".

The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) has said that the PWLF faces a loss of funding and is aware of the doping-related problems that could lead to a ban - but it still supports the existing PWLF leadership over "governmental interference".

Hafiz Imran Butt, President of the PWLF, said the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), a Government body, was "trying to snatch control of weightlifting once again" after an "illegal" attempt to do so in 2013.

Butt has informed the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) of the situation, which may be discussed by the IWF Board at a meeting this weekend.

The PSB, a funding and governance body that sits within a Government ministry, suspended the affiliation of the PWLF and created an interim leadership body of three people.

But one of the three, the PWLF secretary, Nuzhat Jabeen, said she had not been consulted and would continue to work for the "banned" leadership.

"Without getting any consent, the Pakistan Sports Board has included my name as a member of the committee that has been created to undermine the authority of the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation," Jabeen said.

She said the decision also undermined the authority of the IWF and the POA.

"Unfortunately, the Pakistan Sports Board has not taken into consideration that this action can deprive Pakistan weightlifters of international competitions and development programmes," Jabeen said in a letter published by local media.

"I cannot thus become part of any such process."

The Pakistan Hockey Federation, also suspended by the PSB, had likewise refused to accept the decision.

Talha Talib is among Pakistani weightlifters provisionally suspended, in his case for testing positive for a banned steroid  ©Getty Images
Talha Talib is among Pakistani weightlifters provisionally suspended, in his case for testing positive for a banned steroid ©Getty Images

Pakistan faces exclusion from Paris 2024 because of multiple doping violations that became apparent last December but were not made public until April, eight months before the first Olympic qualifying event.

Last year Pakistan came close to a place on the Olympic podium and won its first-ever medal at the IWF World Championships.

But the athlete in both those instances, Talha Talib, was among six weightlifters who were provisionally suspended five months ago.

The International Testing Agency (ITA), which carries out all anti-doping procedures for the IWF, was acting on intelligence jointly with the World Anti-Doping Agency when it sent a mission to test the entire Pakistan team on November 10 2021.

Talib came up positive for norandrosterone, a banned steroid, twice in 12 days, out of competition in November and then at the IWF World Championships in Uzbekistan in December, where he was a snatch bronze medallist at 67 kilograms.

Another Pakistani, the 61kg lifter Abubakar Ghani, tested positive in Tashkent, and four members of the team were charged for failing to give a sample.

One of them, Sharjeel Butt, was a strong medal prospect for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games but, like Talib, he was suspended for that competition.

Hafiz Imran Butt told insidethegames in April that athletes had been advised not to give samples by their own National Anti-Doping Organisation, which was unaware of the testing mission.

He said the incident was the result of "a misunderstanding" between the Pakistan anti-doping authorities and the ITA.

The super-heavyweight Nooh Butt won gold for Pakistan in Birmingham, and that could turn out to be the last major weightlifting title for the nation for some time.

Any nation with three or more doping violations in a year is liable to a ban of up to four years and a fine of up to $500,000 (£430,000/€495,000).

The PSB's suspension of the PWLF was made public on the day of Nooh Butt's victory, but the response did not come until this week.

In Jabeen’s letter, the PWLF said, "Pakistan Weightlifting Federation is not in agreement with the decision of the PSB and therefore would continue to operate in accordance with the federation’s constitution and by virtue of its recognition by the POA and IWF.

"In case of any adverse development leading to exclusion of Pakistani weightlifters or athletes from international competitions, only the PSB will be held responsible…"

She said the PWLF was "an autonomous and independent organisation working to promote and develop the sport of weightlifting" and that the PSB had made no attempt to give the PWLF a chance to defend itself against allegations made in the report.

PWLF President Hafeez Imran Butt, centre in white, previously claimed weightlifters had only refused to give anti-doping samples because of
PWLF President Hafeez Imran Butt, centre in white, previously claimed weightlifters had only refused to give anti-doping samples because of "a misunderstanding" ©Gujranwala Weightlifting

"Therefore, it is a biased, arbitrary, and unfair process leading to contravene the constitutional legitimacy of the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation."

The PSB, which was founded 60 years ago, has 40 National Federations affiliated to it, and it checks on their governance and the way in which they spend state funding.

The PSB Board had unanimously endorsed a report into PWLF activities which found it was "allegedly involved in serious irregularities in its functioning, corrupt practices and anti-doping violations".

A national coach was refused permission to travel to Birmingham.

Hafiz Imran Butt told insidethegames today, "It is very unfortunate that after winning the gold medal at Birmingham, the weightlifting federation was rewarded by PSB with a letter of suspension.

"The mindset at PSB is very harmful and wanted to get control of federations illegally.

"In 2013 PSB created a parallel NOC by forming parallel national federations, including weightlifting.

"However after the positive intervention by IOC, the government (PSB) made an agreement with IOC not to interfere in the internal affairs of national federations.

"Now with the same parallel weightlifting federation people, PSB is trying to snatch the control of weightlifting once again."

Butt said the POA "has assured us full support, to continue to recognise us and to work closely to protect, promote and develop weightlifting in Pakistan".

He said the PSB had paid a grant of $5,000 (£4,300/€5,000) to the PWLF only once in the past four years and "we are managing domestic activities by our own sources".

In a letter to the PWLF, the POA said it did not support "creation of government-formed ad hoc committees" to run national federations.

It said it understood that the doping cases "may lead to the exclusion of Pakistan from international competitions" but complained of "an attempt to undermine the Olympic Charter" by the PSB.