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Weightlifting official fears for future

Press Association logoPress Association 23/09/2016 Matt Slater

Former Australia weightlifting coach Paul Coffa admits the sport's future is in jeopardy because of rampant doping by several leading nations.

Almost half of the 98 athletes caught in the International Olympic Committee's retesting of anti-doping samples from the Beijing and London Games have come from weightlifting, making a mockery of the results.

In the men's 94kg competition at London 2012, to give one example, the medals will now go to the athletes who finished fifth, eighth and ninth, while Kazakhstan will end up losing five golds across the two Games and China three from 2008.

Coffa, who is the general secretary of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation, told PA Sport he was deeply worried about the sport's status.

"The doping results which have now surfaced in the last few months are of great concern to many international officials and, more importantly, the International Weightlifting Federation," said Coffa.

"Weightlifting has been on the Olympic programme since 1896 - it is one of the core sports and has close to 200 affiliated nations.

"But with the introduction of new sports to the Olympic Games we obviously have to be concerned about our future. We should never take things for granted."

With the International Olympic Committee under pressure to ease the financial burden on host cities and freshen up its brand for younger audiences, every sport is reviewed after each Games. Four years ago, wrestling was voted off the programme, only for frantic lobbying to reverse the decision in 2013.

But with baseball/softball, climbing, karate, skateboarding and surfing all being added to the schedule for Tokyo 2020, many Olympic watchers are wondering which sports will eventually have to make way.

Bulgaria, a repeat offender, was fined and given a one-year ban last November when 11 of its weightlifters failed tests and Russia was blocked from sending a team to Rio after a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report revealed rampant cheating.

Russia's team would have received an automatic ban for returning three positives from the 2008 and 2012 retests, but the IOC was unable to process the cases in time.

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China and Kazakhstan should also have been banned from Rio, but because of the delay in formally announcing the sanctions they were able to send teams that combined to win 17 medals.

"As far as I am concerned, they should have been suspended a long time ago. And I am glad the IWF is taking stronger action," Coffa said.

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