THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET
THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Login | Create Account | Search


Weightlifting doping scandal snarls Thai Olympic medal machine

Weightlifting doping scandal snarls Thai Olympic medal machine

WEIGHTLIFTING: Thai weightlifter Sarat Sumpradit eats up to 10 egg whites for breakfast, works out four hours a day, and is banned from his smartphone at night as his training shifts into high gear for the world championships.

Olympics
By AFP

Tuesday 13 August 2019, 11:45AM


However, the muscle-bound 25-year-old has a problem: Thailand is under a self-imposed ban from weightlifting for doping, meaning the hosts may be unrepresented at next month's world championships on home turf in Pattaya.

After nine Thai lifters were suspended following drug tests, Thailand is facing a crisis in its most successful Olympic sport, less than a year before the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

"I'm fighting for those who have been suspended," Sarat said defiantly after his afternoon workout, his second of the day. 

"There are only a few of us left (in the team)."

With five Olympic gold medals since 2004, all won by women, weightlifting has been a rare sporting success story for the Southeast Asian nation, turning ordinary people from the rural hinterland into celebrities.

The dream turned sour last year, when Thailand was caught in a global doping crackdown by weightlifting authorities that was prompted by a threat to expel the sport from the Olympic Games.

Nine Thais including reigning Olympic champions Sukanya Srisurat and Sopita Tanasan have returned positive drug tests since the world championships in November, where Thailand finished second in the medals table. 

It prompted Thailand to voluntarily ban itself from competition, ruling its lifters out of the world championships in Pattaya and next year's Olympics.

- Dozens of cheats -

However, the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (TAWA) now wants athletes who did not test positive to compete in the world championships and have a shot at the Olympics.

A final decision will be made next month by the International Weightlifting Federation, which has come under sustained calls to act after a long list of doping incidents.

Nine countries, including powerhouse China, were suspended from competition after re-testing of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics ensnared dozens of cheats.

At the stuffy training camp in Chiang Mai, where trophies cover the wall and lycra-clad lifters heave weights above their head, Sarat insisted his teammates were unfairly targeted.

"We were on the same team. We went to the Olympics together. We ate and trained the same way. But why didn't I test positive?" he said, suggesting a conspiracy against the Thai team.

"If you can cut the Thai team, other countries might have chances."

But he conceded the drug-plagued sport needs to clean up its act.

BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET

"The strength should really come from yourself and your determination to train."

The men's and women's team sleep in dorms near the gym and eat three high-protein meals a day. At around 9:30 pm, coaches whisk away their phones to ensure a sound night's sleep.

 - 'I bought my mom a house' - 

Thailand says the athletes who tested positive were given a pain relief gel by a former coach that -- unbeknown to them -- had small traces of an anabolic steroid.

Thai association honorary president Intarat Yodbangtoey also suspects the country was singled out, as many of the athletes passed tests before their samples were among others sent for a second, more stringent round of testing.

"We teach them a lot, don't drink, don't eat, and don't inject anything (illegal)," he said in his Bangkok office. "Where is the justice?"

He said many of the weightlifters are from the countryside where the sport offers a way out of poverty, and that the scandal had left them feeling "hopeless".

"It will kill them," he said, of penalties that could be handed down after the International Testing Agency rules (ITA) rules on the cases.

The International Weightlifting Federation, which handed over testing management to the Switzerland-based ITA last year, did not respond to requests for comment.

The situation has been demoralising for the Thai team, who started collecting Olympic medals at Sydney in 2000, when women's weightlifting made its debut at the Games.

Khassaraporn Suta became Thailand's first-ever women's Olympic medallist with bronze in Sydney, raising the profile of weightlifting in a country where football, boxing, badminton and golf are more popular.

The benefits can be lucrative, with Thai athletes receiving financial rewards from sponsors and government funds. Twenty-year-old lifter Jiraporn Nantawong said she has been able to help her family out of debt.

"We are more comfortable. I bought my mom a house," she said. "Most of the team has problems with money."

The diminutive lifter, like Sarat, said her main target now is to "preserve our dignity by performing very well".

"No matter what, the sport will not go down."

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

CAPTCHA

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket tour bus operators’ crisis deepens amid virus fallout

Dek, thank you for your 'police search job' and 'follow'me with so much fascination...(Read More)


Kamala canal runs black despite new B58mn wastewater-treatment plant coming online

Remember to connect the "in" to the "in" and the "out" to the out. Jus...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: They kill children

Kurt must be on holiday out of the country....(Read More)


Phuket tour bus operators’ crisis deepens amid virus fallout

" I not drink alcohol" Oh,that's weird given the fact you commented the following on a...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: They kill children

Absolutely spot on article, now if only those "in charge" would take note, not much chance...(Read More)


Phuket tour bus operators’ crisis deepens amid virus fallout

better still, dont have a comment section. ...(Read More)


Mains water supply outage to affect Kathu

How can it possibly be unrealistic? Why bother with just Phuket. It's not the centre of the univ...(Read More)


Mains water supply outage to affect Kathu

@Rorri " Stick to what this is about" I thought it is an article about works are carried ...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: They kill children

How many more? I agree that the only way things may change is when victims and their families sue ca...(Read More)


Phuket jungle camp cleared of baby elephant abuse allegations

Poor baby belongs with her mother so cruel to see I would never visit any place where you ride eleph...(Read More)