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Weightlifting World Cup begins as decision-makers look to clean up the sport

The International Weightlifting Federation World Cup begins in Tianjin, China on Tuesday just a few days after the Federation (I.W.F.) took steps toward cleaning up the sport.

I.W.F.’s Executive Board met in Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday, and confirmed the status of its Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel, which was created last year to make decisions on punishments for nations with multiple doping offences.

The Board also decided that to further improve independence, the International Testing Agency would be asked to appoint members to the Panel.

“I am very pleased that the IWF Executive Board has displayed unity and wisdom when supporting the progressive proposals that confirm our commitment towards clean weightlifting, even more independence and credibility,” said IWF President Tamas Ajan.

The Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel was established after a unanimous vote by the Executive Board in 2018, but prior to Saturday’s meeting, insidethegames.biz’s Brian Oliver reported that several members were now questioning the legality of the panel in its ability to supersede Executive Board decisions.

Oliver later reported that the opposing group included seven nations (Russia, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Egypt, India, Romania, Uzbekistan) that have been prohibited from sending some athletes to the 2020 Olympics because of doping violations.

Ajan had previously warned against "proposals whereby sanctioning powers might be returned to the IWF Executive Board, for whose members a conflict of interest may exist.”

The Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel’s creation was among the I.W.F.’s moves that led to the International Olypmic Committee to decide not to exclude weightlifting from the Olympic Games because of the doping in the sport.

Tom Goegebuer is the athletes’ representative on I.W.F. Commissions and a three-time Olympian.

"Our place on the Olympic programme is only safe when we can ensure a fair competition,” he told Oliver.

"In weightlifting our culture has been influenced by so many positive cases we start to think it’s normal.

"Until a new, doping-free culture is created we cannot afford to lose attention or to take a step back."

Samoa’s only ever Olympic medallist Ele Opeloge only received her silver medal from the 2008 Olympics when doping disqualifications moved her up to second place.

Brian Oliver spoke to Samoa Weightlifting Federation president and S.W.A. Samoa Weightlifting Team coach Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork at the time in 2016.

“Most importantly Ele's future could have been shaped differently,” he said.

"Many doors and options could have opened up for her, especially the reward that was offered by our Government for $100,000.

"Ele comes from a poor background and these funds could have really made a difference for her family eight years ago. It’s very unfair.

"The small islands work so hard to be competing against big-time cheaters who pump in millions just to cover their tracks."

Tuaopepe is over in Tianjin, China for the I.W.F. World Cup with Ele’s nephew, 20-year-old Junior World Champion Don Opeloge, who will be representing Samoa in the 96 kg men category.

Having already qualified for the 2020 Olympics, and with Ajan and the Federation seemingly intent on cleaning up the sport, perhaps Don Opeloge could follow in his aunt’s footsteps and pick up another Olympic medal for Samoa, and maybe not have to wait over eight years after the competition to receive it.

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