POSTED: September 8th 2016

NEIL WILSON: The cheat who may be awarded an Olympic gold medal at London's dirty Games

Anatoli Ciricu © Getty Images
Anatoli Ciricu © Getty Images

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Anatoli Ciricu is one of weightlifting's most infamous cheats. The Moldovan was banned for doping for two years in 2007. Last year he was caught taking the pharmaceutical short-cut again and banned until 2023.

Now Ciricu has placed the poor beleaguered International Weightlifting Federation in the most invidious position. Should it recommend to the IOC that he is awarded an Olympic gold medal?

Or, perhaps, should not recommend it and advise the IOC to leave the dirtiest weightlifting competition in Olympic history without a winner.

So much for the IOC's prediction that the 2012 Olympics in London would be the "cleanest possible Games". Now it is very likely that it will be the dirtiest ever Games with 45 already named as positive and another 30 cases presently being processed by the IOC.

Certainly London showcased two of the dirtiest competitions in Olympic history. The women's 1,500 metres we know about - five of the first eight have tested positive since the Games.  Now the men's 94kg division in weightlifting is challenging it for the unwelcome accolade, with five of the first eight serving bans.

When the dust settles on tests and re-tests, the eighth placed lifter, Kim Min-Jae, who managed 23 kilograms less than the gold medallist, will probably receive a bronze medal. Assuming that re-tests are not also his undoing.

So far the gold medallist, Ilya Ilyin, of Kazahkstan, and silver medalist Aleksandr Ivanov, of Russia, have been disqualified officially after IOC re-tests. The gold, therefore, should have gone to the bronze medalist but that is Ciricu.

The IWF meet later this month to sort out the unholy mess. If they decide they cannot give an infamous cheat an Olympic gold, Kim Min-Jae may be in luck  for a bronze because the sixth placer has been fingered by a re-test and the seventh placer banned already until 2019.

Weightlifting's international federation, the IWF, is fighting a valiant rear-guard action against its cheats. Along with athletic's IAAF and rowing's FISA, it stood firm before Rio when the IOC itself ducked the issue, banning Russians and Bulgarians completely and reducing places for the countries of other proven cheats.

But its past is coming back to haunt it. The positives in re-tests of weightlifting samples in Beijjng and London now number 46 for the sport, forty of them from former Soviet bloc countries. Four gold medals in both 2008 and in 2012 have had to be re-allocated.

Dirtiest country of all is Kazakhstan which has ten of its lifters disqualified by re-tests, Russian second worst with nine.

They are two of seven countries which because of re-tests have fallen foul now of the IWF's doping rule of "three strikes and out".  All should be banned for having three or more positives in a calendar year but that would mean there would be no lifters in next year's world championships in Penang, Malaysia, from China, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azebejian, Ukraine and Turkey. Cheap medals for all the rest but hardly a world championships.

The fines allied to those national suspensions would net the IWF more than $500,000, and if not paid would add a further year to the national bans. Kazakhstan alone could face a fine of $250,000.

The IWF's determination to stamp out doping, shown by its stand over Rio, will be judged again by whether it imposes the suspensions and fines when it meets later this month. Or whether it takes the coward's way out by ruling that re-tests of 2008 and 2012 samples do not fall in a single calendar year even though revealed during 2016.

The IWF is well aware that in the wings are critics ready to demand that the sport is thrown out of the Games after Tokyo because of its doping record. The IWF executive board will be walking a fine line when its meets.

Meanwhile the London Games itself may shortly assume the title of the dirtiest in history, or at least rival Beijing for the dubious honour by over-taking the record for Games positives. That, according to one source, is 62.  So much for the "cleanest possible Games".

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books. 

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Olympics

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