Despite Kazakhstan restrictions to only two athletes at last Tokyo Olympics after their historic of losing six gold medalist in the past Olympics due to doping; six of their weightlifters have now been found to have tested positive to prohibited substances.
The banned six weightlifters include the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games bronze medallist Igor Son and two current world champions.
Both the world champions are teenagers who won youth and junior world titles by huge margins last year.
A world silver medallist is also among the six, all of whom are from the Almaty region.
They came up positive in out-of-competition testing by Kazakhstan’s National Anti-Doping Centre in a three-week period between February 9 and March 2.
No substances were specified in a brief statement by the Kazakhstan Weightlifting Federation (WFRK).
The offences will be dealt with at national level rather than by the International Testing Agency (ITA), which carries out all anti-doping procedures for the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
It is a signal that Kazakhstan’s sports authorities are making serious efforts to root out doping, but the news is an embarrassment for the sport and especially for the WFRK, which has a very bad doping record.
The WFRK statement said: “Adhering to the policy of zero tolerance for doping, the WFRK intends to conduct an internal investigation into this incident.”
Only two weeks ago Nijat Rahimov, who finished first after a world-record final lift in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, was stripped of his 77 kilograms gold medal and banned for eight years.
Evidence showed he had been sample-swapping in the build-up to the Olympic Games, and all his results since March 2016 were scratched.
Kazakhstan has lost six Olympic gold medals in weightlifting because of doping offences at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Because of its historic doping record Kazakhstan was restricted to only two places in Tokyo, which went to Son and Zulfiya Chinshanlo – one of the six who forfeited an Olympic gold medal.
Last week the IWF general secretary Mohamed Jaloud spoke of the governing body’s commitment to clean sport and welcomed the decision to disqualify Rahimov.
He said: “We have come a long way from the terrible doping problems we faced in our sport but we cannot be complacent, we must continue the improvement in our anti-doping programme and remain vigilant to ensure that athletes can be happy to compete in our competitions drug-free.”