China are facing a one-year ban from weightlifting after the sport’s world governing body confirmed that the country's three failed retests from Beijing 2008 samples were enough to warrant such a sanction under rules adopted earlier this year.
A trio of female Chinese weightlifters are set to be stripped of their Beijing 2008 gold medals after testing positive for GHRP-2.
They include Cao Lei, who won the 75 kilograms category, Liu Chunhong, the 69kg champion, and Chen Xiexia, the 48kg gold medallist.
Liu also failed for stimulant sibutramine.
In June, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) vowed to hand a one-year suspension to all countries who produced three or more anti-doping rule violations in the combined re-analysis of samples from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.
It had been expected that these would come into force in time for Rio 2016, but that was not possible because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are yet to formerly sanction those implicated - even though their names have already been announced by the IWF.
"It happens automatically," an IWF spokesperson told the Associated Press.
"The vote was already taken so now we only need to receive the closed cases from the IOC to proceed."
The IWF told insidethegames it has no information from the IOC on the cases and believes the process has been started again now that Rio 2016 is finished.
China’s five golds and two silvers saw the nation top the weightlifting medal table at Rio 2016, a feat the country has achieved at every Olympics since Sydney 2000.
Cao, Liu and Chen were three of 11 athletes named by the IWF on Wednesday (August 24) as having failed tests following re-analysis of their samples from Beijing 2008 using up to date technology.
The announcements took Ukraine to three failures from retesting, with the list including Natalya Davidova, bronze medallist at women’s 69kg, and compatriot Olha Korobka, who served a four-year suspension after testing positive at the 2011 World Championships in Paris and clinched over 75kg silver in Beijing.
Azerbaijan’s Nizami Pashayev, who did not win a medal and has now retired from the sport, was also named to take his country’s tally to four.
Like China, Ukraine and Azerbaijan have therefore joined Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which are already facing one-year bans under earlier announcements.
Russia were subsequently banned from Rio anyway as the "integrity of the weightlifting sport has been seriously damaged on multiple times and levels...therefore an appropriate sanction was applied in order to preserve the status of the sport".
Turkey and Armenia will also have more than three retesting failures if all outstanding cases are confirmed.
As many as 16 weightlifting medals from Beijing 2008 and 13 from London 2012 are set to be stripped following failed retests.
It comes at a time when the sport is fighting a severe doping crisis that isn’t showing any signs of letting up.
The IWF has confirmed this week that Poland’s Krzysztof Szramiak, the 77kg silver medallist at the 2010 European Championships in Minsk, and Belarus’ Stanislau Chadovich, the 62kg silver medallist at the 2014 European Championships in Tel Aviv, have both returned adverse analytical findings.
Szramiak and Chadovich have failed for GHRP-6 and urine substitution respectively.