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Tuaopepe decries weightlifting doping, corruption allegations

The Samoa Weightlifting Federation President, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, has weighed into the whistleblower allegations of doping and corruption in weightlifting and called for the sport’s international governing body to undergo urgent reforms.

His appeal comes on the back of a three-year World Anti-Doping Agency-led inquiry into doping in weightlifting based on the evidence of whistleblowers, which according to the sporting website Inside the Game has uncovered high levels of corruption.

Corruption practices revealed include the use of doppelgangers to provide clean samples for dopers, synthetic urinary devices to swap clean for dirty urine, transfusions, bribery, tip-offs concerning testing plans, and "undetectable" growth hormones.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer in a phone interview, Tuaopepe claimed that there has been a lot of covering up of drug doping, and people have gone to extra lengths to cheat the system in order to win gold medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships.

He stressed that now is the best for the allegations to be put in the spotlight and addressed while acknowledging that there have been calls to reform the International Weightlifting Federation [IWF], its president and board. 

"And also a lot of reforms have to be set up for the sport in order for it to continue in the future,” he said.

 Tuaopepe added that the system has always been unfair from the start, and Samoa has competed against other countries that had athletes who were mired in doping allegations including steroids for many years. 

"An advantage for them and a massive disadvantage to us because we are from a small country who has very limited resources and yet we are still able to keep close to the top without anything.”

Describing the uncovering of doping and corruption allegations as “the best thing to happen to weightlifting”, Tuaopepe also said he is worried that it could impact weightlifting’s future as an Olympic sport, but opening a new chapter for weightlifting and subjecting it to reforms supported by a new executive is the way forward. 

"Our young people now have chances of winning medals or gold medals at the Olympic games and world championships," he said.

When asked if anything should be done to promote an equal playing field in weightlifting, the weightlifting supremo revealed that a lot of work was done to update the rules and testing systems, but countries still went to great lengths to cheat the system.

“They are doing all sorts of things, harmful to the athlete himself or herself just so they could win. 

“So they are putting in stricter measures, harder punishments in order to try and stop this drug problem that they have in weightlifting, not only weightlifting, and a few other sports are doing the same thing.”

Tuaopepe said he hopes that the reforms can be rolled out in a transparent manner and added that Samoa has not experienced a similar governance crisis.

"We have never had anything. We have struggled just to get funding to try and train. We have struggled to try and get a building so that we can train.”

He said he believes that Samoa’s weightlifting team is still working hard and getting closer to the top by following the right channels and doing it the natural way.

“We are going to get to the Olympic medals, we are going to get to a gold medal, which is very soon,” he said.

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