Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cheats make it hard to raise bar

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Weightlifting's biggest problem and a reason governing bodies like New Zealand's struggle to sell the sport is the use of performance enhancing drugs - abroad.

Stretching back online through the last 91 doping-related Sports Tribunal decisions to August 2004, no New Zealand weightlifter has tested positive to a banned substance. The odd powerlifter appears, having sampled curious-sounding products like 'Ripped Freak', but weightlifting has kept its veins clean.

Yet all those Kiwi weightlifters are let down by a lack of barbell solidarity overseas. The Olympic statistics of weightlifting doping violations tell a story. Dating back to the 1972 Munich Games, weightlifting has provided more dopers (40) than any other sport. They have come from 24 different countries although some usual suspects - Bulgaria, that's you - pulsate off the list.

The poor image continues unabated. Eight Russian lifters were banned for breaking anti-doping regulations in March while eight Turkish men were left out of their Mediterranean Games squad for violating the WADA code.

Turkish weightlifting has been rocked by two major doping scandals in recent years, with dozens of athletes, including Olympic and world championship medallists, involved. The previous federation resigned when five lifters tested positive for doping during the European under-23 championships this year. The president of Turkey's Weightlifting Federation, Tamer Taspinar, claimed in June they give lifters, "a lot of advice ... But unfortunately some habits are deplorable". That's cold comfort to those competing legally in New Zealand who struggle to secure Olympic places or funding.

However, Richie Patterson, New Zealand's only competitor at London, is upbeat: "Cheats are getting caught so it's good to know testers are doing their job. The rules are burned into you at a young age but there is still an old guard coaching who were part of the 1970s era when drug use was prolific and accepted."

In contrast, there is evidence doping is rife across the whole spectrum of the sport. Don Ramos, an 80-year-old American, tested positive for a steroid and was suspended two years last month. He failed a test at the Pan-American masters champs in Chicago.

- Herald on Sunday

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