Ruslan Albegov has been given a four-year ban for an anti0doping violation ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has banned six Russian weightlifters for periods of four to eight years and provisionally suspended three more after a doping investigation based on information from a whistleblower.

The suspensions take the number of Russian weightlifters banned for doping since the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to 37.

Another 12 potential violations, mostly announced in the past 14 months but concerning historic offences, remain unclosed.

Russia was barred from weightlifting at the Rio 2016 Olympics and is restricted to one male and one female lifter at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games because of its doping past.

As the historic doping violations continue to mount up, it is unclear whether Russia will face the prospect of another outright suspension.

Ten of Russia’s post-Beijing suspensions were imposed after samples at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games were retested by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Eight Russians were disqualified from medal positions at those two Games.

One of those suspended today, the 32-year-old super-heavyweight Ruslan Albegov, is the only Russian male still in possession of a medal from London 2012 - a bronze.

The offences that led to the six new bans took place between 2011 and 2015, a point stressed by the president of the Russian Weightlifting Federation (FTAR) Maxim Agapitov, who said the IWF under the reign of the disgraced Tamás Aján should take most of the blame.

Agapitov, who sits on the IWF Executive Board, was also critical of the governing body’s Interim President Ursula Papandrea who, he said, was "keeping hidden" from the Board further evidence from the McLaren Independent Weightlifting Investigation.

That report, published in June, two months after Aján resigned as IWF President, condemned Aján for overseeing years of corruption including financial malpractice, doping cover-ups and rigged elections.

Richard McLaren showed that dozens of doping suspensions were delayed, or samples "hidden", and that doping was used as a means of making money and holding on to power.

Russian Weightlifting Federation President Maxim Agapitov insists the sport has
Russian Weightlifting Federation President Maxim Agapitov insists the sport has "cleaned up" in Russia ©NTV

Since Agapitov took charge of the FTAR in 2016 Russia has had a good record on doping and has "cleaned up" through all 73 regional federations, Agapitov said.

"All these cases have nothing to do with the renewed, clean FTAR of today and with the new clean generation of athletes," Agapitov told insidethegames.

"All of them, without exception, relate to 2011 to 2015… the time of the reign of Aján and his team.

"Alone, neither countries, nor athletes, nor coaches in such a large number could break the rules in just one sport.

"The guilt for these violations is not so much on them as on the IWF.

"The IWF was empowered to fight against doping but instead of fighting, we saw a hypocritical deception in which many national federations were involved.

"I expected this to be reflected in the McLaren Report but there is almost nothing in the public report about this, and the full report is still hidden by Aján's successor [Interim President] Ursula Papandrea, even for the members of the executive board.

"I hope the matter will be brought to its logical conclusion, all those involved in the vicious system of the IWF will be identified, the tree bearing bad fruit will be cut down and a new, clean tree will grow in its place.

"Just the same as it happened with FTAR."

The "hidden" part of the Mclaren Report was passed on by the report’s author to the IWF’s Oversight and Integrity Commission (OIC), which no longer exists and is due to be replaced by an Ethics Commission.

The creation of that Ethics Commission is a matter of contention for the Board and appears to have been stalled.

The unpublished part of the report contains material that relates to "possible criminal conduct".

It was not deemed robust enough for public consumption, as the McLaren team had not had sufficient time to fully investigate the evidence.

Some of that evidence concerns members of the IWF Board possibly gaining their position through bribery, and has therefore not been released to the 21 Board members.

Ruslan Albegov, right, won a bronze medal at London 2012 ©Getty Images
Ruslan Albegov, right, won a bronze medal at London 2012 ©Getty Images

When the McLaren Report was published, Papandrea said: "My intent, and I’ll discuss this with the OIC, would be to create an external body as we did with the [McLaren] investigation, independent of the IWF, to investigate any claims of any members of the Executive Board being engaged in any malfeasance related to the electoral process."

No such external body has yet been created.

The Russian suspensions were the result of work carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) team.

A whistleblower gave WADA a copy of the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) data for Moscow’s national anti-doping laboratory in October 2017.

A lengthy investigation followed, involving forensic copies of data from the Moscow laboratory.

In a statement today the IWF said: "Following these investigations, the International Testing Agency (ITA), on behalf of the IWF, brought forward 12 cases against Russian athletes in 2019 and two additional cases earlier this year."

After "thorough disciplinary proceedings before the IWF hearing panel" six Russians were suspended, three charged, and eight more cases are "currently pending".

The cases are handled by the ITA, which carries out the governing body’s anti-doping procedures, on behalf of the IWF.

"The IWF is grateful to WADA I&I, to the ITA, external legal counsel and to our staff for their diligence in efficiently prosecuting these athletes for their anti-doping rule violations," said Papandrea.

"The decisions are proof that the anti-doping system has become significantly stronger in recent years, notably thanks to WADA’s powers to investigate.

"The IWF will continue to play its part alongside the ITA and others in doing all it can to protect clean weightlifters and promote clean weightlifting."

The doping offences punished today took place while Tamás Aján was IWF President ©Getty Images
The doping offences punished today took place while Tamás Aján was IWF President ©Getty Images

Albegov, a multiple world and European champion, is the most successful athlete among the six, all of whom had been provisionally suspended since late 2017 or early 2018.

Albegov and Egor Klimonov, 28, a former youth world champion, were banned for four years.

Dimitry Lapikov, 38, a multiple medallist who won a bronze at Beijing 2008 and was banned for two years in 2013 for doping, was suspended for eight years.

Maksim Sheiko, 32, a junior world champion way back in 2008, was suspended for six years as this was also his second offence.

The women, both banned for four years, are Tima Turieva, 28, a former world and European champion, and Yulia Konovalova, who has not competed since 2014.

The three charged and provisionally suspended are Arsen Boraganov, 33, who has posted no results since 2014 and never competed outside Russia; Feliks Khalibekov, 30, who was sixth at last year’s European Championships; and 26-year-old Aleksey Emelyanenko, whose only international result is a "bomb-out" in the 2014 Universiade.