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Thailand fail to lift ban for weightlifting worlds

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Thai Olympic weightlifters Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat show off their medals in Bangkok on August 26, 2016. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP

Thailand fail to lift ban for weightlifting worlds

Thai weightlifters will not be allowed to compete at the world championships despite the country hosting the event, the sport’s global body confirmed on Wednesday, dashing hopes of a late reprieve after a doping scandal.

Nine Thais including two reigning Olympic champions were suspended after positive drug tests since November, prompting Thailand to voluntarily ban itself from the September championships in Pattaya as well as next year’s Olympics.

Last month the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (TAWA) changed tact, saying lifters who did not fail tests should be allowed to compete and have a shot at the Tokyo Games, while athletes and coaches were told to get ready.

But the International Weightlifting Federation has slammed the door shut after telling AFP that “no Thai athletes will be entitled to participate” in Pattaya.

“The IWF Executive Board will not be reviewing TAWA’s decision at its meeting in September and therefore TAWA’s self-suspension and the suspension of Thai athletes from competing in weightlifting events will remain in place.”

The Thai association was not immediately available for comment on the IWF statement, which deepens the crisis enveloping Thailand’s most successful Olympic sport.

Thailand maintains its lifters were given a pain relief gel by a former coach that, unbeknown to them, contained traces of an anabolic steroid.

Intarat Yodbangtoey, the honorary president of the Thai weightlifting association, last month told AFP he wanted to lift the blanket ban because the source of the problem had been discovered.

“I hope that executive board members will allow us to join and participate,” he said at the time.

With five Olympic gold medals since 2004, all won by women, weightlifting has been a rare sporting success story for the Southeast Asian nation.

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

The Thai athletes who tested positive were provisionally suspended and are awaiting a decision on their cases, which are being handled by the International Testing Agency.

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