Weightlifting hopes for clean Games
Posted: Tuesday August 3, 2004 11:14PM; Updated: Tuesday August 3, 2004 11:14PM
LONDON, Aug 4 (Reuters) -- Four years after women made their Olympic debut in weightlifting, the sport hopes to achieve another landmark in Athens by proving it is drug-free.
Three times in the past 15 years weightlifting officials have attempted to start again by changing the weight categories, wiping out all existing records tainted by drug-taking.
Three Bulgarians and one Armenian tested positive in Sydney and in March Bulgarian Olympic champion Galabin Boevski was banned for eight years for tampering with a urine sample.
Two of his team mates were given 18-month suspensions and will miss this month's Games as well. In all, 11 athletes from 10 nations tested positive at the 2003 world championships.
Bulgaria remain one of the major forces in world weightlifting, having won 34 Olympic medals in total.
Iran, China -- who won four women's golds in Sydney -- and Greece are threatening the domination by former Eastern bloc states as countries "import" athletes and coaches from the traditional powers.
The Greek team, trained by Christos Iakovou, are looking to Georgian-born Akakios Khakiasvili and Pyrros Dimas, a native of Albania, to provide gold medals -- they already have three each but are now well into their 30s.
The biggest personality in the sport, in all senses of the word, is Iran's Hossein Rezazadeh, the so-called world's strongest man, who won the super-heavyweight gold in Sydney at just 22.
In Athens he is likely to increase his world record towards the 500-kg mark but may wait until Beijing in 2008 to attempt this almost mythical weight.
China's Ding Meiyuan is world and Olympic champion at super-heavyweight heading into Athens and another Chinese, Liu Chunhong, will also be worth watching.
At 18, she won the 69-kg gold at the 2003 world championships and set five senior and junior world records.
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