Malaysian, Thai weightlifters banned from Tokyo Olympics

PARIS, 7 April 2020:

Thailand and Malaysia have been banned from sending weightlifters to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because of multiple doping offences, the Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel announced on Saturday, reported Xinhua news agency.

The Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (TAWA) and the Malaysian Weightlifting Federation (MFW) have also been suspended as members of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) for three years and one year, respectively.

The panel said the ban on Thai and Malaysian weightlifters from Tokyo 2020 would stand regardless of the change in schedule for that tournament, which has been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thailand had voluntarily withdrawn from international competitions, including Tokyo 2020, after nine of its weightlifters tested positive at the 2018 World Championships. No Thai weightlifters had entered the IWF’s Olympic qualification process following the self-suspension.

Thai athletes over the age of 18 have been excluded for an additional 11 months following the next IWF event, while under-18s cannot compete for five months after the next IWF competition.

The panel said the suspensions “will not start to run during the period when all IWF events are cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic”.

The panel said the sanction on the TAWA will be in place until at least 7 March 2022 and could lifted on or after that date if the troubled federation meets a set of pre-determined criteria.

Malaysia has been punished after three weightlifters were caught doping in a calendar year.

TAMA and MFW have 21 days from April 1 to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the panel said.

Meanwhile, MWF has been advised to focus on grassroots development and anti-doping education rather than spending hundreds of thousands to appeal against its suspension by IWF.

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) medical and anti-doping committee chairman Datuk Dr SS Cheema said with no major multisports games scheduled till the end of the suspension period in April 2021, it will be wasteful to appeal to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“The appeal is very expensive; MWF had better think twice before appealing because the Asian and Commonwealth Games will be hosted in 2022, while the SEA Games are scheduled at the end of 2021.

“It is wiser to spend the money on creating awareness to eradicate the issue. It will be fruitful to bring the case to the CAS only if the chances of winning are high,” the long-time sports administrator said when contacted today.

The IWF suspended MWF from taking part in any of its activities for a year from 1 April 2020 until 1 April 2021, as well as barred all Malaysian weightlifters from competing in next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

It also barred Malaysians from taking part in any IWF-sponsored championships and programmes for five months until 1 Sept 2020 following several doping cases involving national weightlifters in 2018.

IWF said the one-year suspension will be reviewed and might be lifted as early as Oct 1, if MWF can demonstrate it has met pre-defined criteria – if the organisation can demonstrate it has adhered to criteria designed to prevent further doping issues in the future.

To date, none of the Malaysian weightlifters have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games champion Muhammad Aznil Bidin’s hopes to qualify have now been dashed by the suspension.

MWF is in the midst of getting additional information as well as studying the effects and consequences before deciding whether to bring the case to CAS.

Dr Cheema said doping has now spread to the grassroots level and heavier punishment rather than just World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions should be meted out to offenders.

“It is very miserable to see even Sukma (Malaysian Games) athletes are tested positive; it means the anti-doping awareness and education did not reach the ground. This has to stop somewhere for the sake of the national sports associations and the country.

“Heavier punishment, over and above the WADA sanctions, must be handed out. For example, not selecting them in the team for any competitions to send a strong signal to other young athletes. But not to forget the root of this problem, the suppliers.

“The athletes (who tested positive) must cooperate fully in the hearing and the panel must investigate the suppliers thoroughly. If we let off the suppliers, they will continue to spoil the other athletes and sports.”

– Bernama