More shame for weightlifting as memorable Rio 2016 contest exposed as a sham

ONE of the most famous weightlifting contests in the sport’s Olympic history was ruled to have been a sham today when the “champion” from Kazakhstan was disqualified.

Nijat Rahimov, who stunned the Chinese favourite Lu Xiaojun by smashing the world record with his final attempt in the 77kg category at Rio 2016, has been suspended for eight years and had all his results since March 2016 scratched.

He swapped urine samples with a “clean” athlete three times in the build-up to the Rio Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled.

Lu now stands to be promoted from second place to first.

That would put him alongside the only four men to have won three Olympic titles – Pyrros Dimas of Greece, the Georgian-Greek Kakhi Kakhiashvili, and the two Turks Halil Mutlu and Naim Suleymanoglu.

Lu, who won at London 2012 and became the oldest Olympic weightlifting champion when he won the 81kg in Tokyo aged 37 last year, would become the first Asian weightlifter to win three Olympic gold medals.

The fourth-placed finisher in Rio, Chatuphum Chinnawong of Thailand – who was also fourth at London 2012 – would take the bronze medal and Egypt’s Mohamed Ehab would move up from bronze to silver.

The reallocation process goes through several phases and, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it could be finished this year or it could take until 2024.

Ehab watched in disbelief in Rio as Rahimov went up 12kg from one lift to the next, and said afterwards, “I hope this was a 100 per cent clean competition.”

Rahimov’s offences came to light during the “Operation Arrow” investigation carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which began in 2017 and focused on sample substitution.
Lu Xiaojun of China, who won gold in the men’s 81kg category at Tokyo 2020, will now become the first Asian weightlifter to win three Olympic gold medals ©Getty Images
Lu Xiaojun of China, who won gold in the men’s 81kg category at Tokyo 2020, will now become the first Asian weightlifter to win three Olympic gold medals ©Getty Images

He was found to have provided somebody else’s sample on March 15, June 10 and July 16 in 2016, the latter occasion coming only 25 days before his sensational performance.

Rahimov, 28, originally competed for Azerbaijan, where he was born.

He was suspended for two years in 2013 after testing positive out of competition for oxandrolone and turinabol.

When he returned to competition in September 2015 he was lifting for Kazakhstan – and his extraordinary total of 379kg in Rio was 39kg more than his previous best, and 35kg more than anything he managed afterwards.

Rahimov’s best total since then came in 2019 when he won the Alexander Cup in Belarus with 344kg, and his last international appearance was at the Qatar Cup in December 2019.

Rahimov’s disqualification means Kazakhstan has now lost six Olympic gold medals in weightlifting because of doping offences at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Ilia Ilyin lost two of them, in the men’s 94kg in Beijing and London, while all three of Kazakhstan’s female “champions” in London were later disqualified, Zulfiya Chinshanlo in 53kg, Maiya Maneza in 63kg and Svetlana Podobedova in 75kg.

The International Testing Agency, which carries out all anti-doping procedures for the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), said in a statement that it welcomed the CAS decision to ban Rahimov and disqualify his results.

Rahimov was provisionally suspended 14 months ago and the CAS hearing into his case took place last August, but no decision was announced until today.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: