Weightlifting Must Clean Up: The IOC Takes The Sport To Task On Doping

The IOC’s stand against doping and Weightlifting

By now you’re probably aware doping scandals have endangered Weightlifting’s future in the Summer Olympics. The IOC is serious this time. Hitting us with a 25% athlete quota reduction, a loss of a weight category and a stern warning to clean up our act or say goodbye.

Below is a stolen transcript of the secret IOC meeting where Weightlifting’s future was discussed.

Bach: what is the worst sport on this program?

IOC Officer: That would be hard to say, sir. They’re each outstanding in their own way.

Bach: Cut the horsesh*t, son. I’ve got their doping files right here. Who dropped a whole truckload of positives at their World Championships a few years ago? Who delivered 45 more from the 2008 and 2012 retests? Every quad, the governing body’s statements are filled with empty pledges. Every summer games, the drug laboratories explode.

IOC Officer: You’re talking about Weightlifting, sir.

Bach: Of course I’m talking about Weightlifting, you TWERP!!! This quad is going to be different. This time we are going to grab the bull by the balls and kick those punks off the program.

IOC Officer: What do you intend to do sir? Weightlifting’s already on probation.

Bach: They are?

IOC Officer: Yes, sir.

Bach: Oh. Then as of this moment, they’re on double let them beg for forgiveness probation!

IOC Officer: Double let them beg for forgiveness probation, sir?

Bach: There is a little-known codicil in the IOC constitution which gives the president unlimited power to preserve order in a time of games emergency. Find me a way to revoke Weightlifting’s status on the program. You live in Europe. Put Cycling on it. They’re sneaky little sh*ts, just like you, right? [IOC Officer nods] The time has come for someone to slam their bar down. And that bar is me.

Sorry. I know this isn’t a time for joking but that was too good to pass up.

Anyway, on the most recent episode of the OLIFT podcast, we discuss the IOC decision and some of the recent doping news in U.S.

To make matters worse, this story reported by Reuters, broke after the IOC announcement to slap Weightlifting in the face. Forget about Olympic medalists getting caught in drug retests. The IWF now has to deal with a story of teenagers, as young as 14, testing positive for steroids. There is a ton we don’t know from the article but the timing is awful. The story is damning and helped in no way by the near comical cry of conspiracy via tainted desserts. Something like this validates the IOC’s position against the sport.

Weightlifting’s synonymous tie to the Olympics

If you think getting kicked out of the Olympics is something easily reversed don’t be fooled. Just ask Baseball and Softball.

Weightlifting, in a format different to today’s sport, first appeared in the 1896 Olympics. It was dropped again, along with Golf, after the 1904 Olympics.

Weightlifting made its way back to the Olympic program in 1920 but Golf didn’t return until 2016.

Here’s the thing. A sport like Golf isn’t so synonymously tied to the Olympics that most people mistakenly think its name is “Olympic-Style Golf.” Its return was greeted with a collective yawn by most who enjoy the Olympics. To clarify, Weightlifting isn’t named “Olympic” or “Olympic-Style Weightlifting.” It’s simply Weightlifting.

The idea of Weightlifting being out of the Olympics doesn’t just create a cold sweat for those of us who love the sport. It creates an identity crisis and fear of, no offense, becoming Powerlifting. A sport riddled with untold federations, interpretations of what’s “real” and yes, drug use.

Weightlifting is not doomed

Despite the wave of positives from the 2015 World Championships, the 2008 & 2012 retests, the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal (of which Weightlifting is a part), multiple pops at the 2016 Olympics, a serious hit/threat by the IOC and now this Egypt story I still believe Weightlifting is not doomed.

Assuming the IWF can pull together and enforce a response that appeases the IOC we will remain alive as part of the Olympics through 2024. Survival as a sport beyond that will require a cultural change that may take a generation (or longer) to fix.

First, overcoming denial over rampant PED use. The IOC has seen to it that we can no longer bury our heads in the sand. Beyond that, we have to change the mindset, pervasive in many regions on earth, that high performance and success in this sport are inescapably tied to drug use. It’s sad that many followers lament that a clean sport will destroy performance and this, not expulsion from the Olympics, is what will kill the sport.

Oddly, it’s baseball we can look to for some hope.

The all-time league home run record, set in 2000 during the height of the “steroid era”, stands at 5,693. At the time I’m writing this Major League Baseball is about 1/3 of the way through its 2017 season and the league is (roughly) on pace for a 6,000 home run season.

If the steroid/PED era is behind baseball, how is this possible? The answer, athletes, and strategies change in ways we don’t expect and can’t predict. They evolve.

In baseball, the unprecedented increase in home runs is coinciding directly with a rise in strikeouts and lower batting averages. So a change in player approach to hitting has a created a remarkable difference in power hitting. Not drugs. Also, the net result is that run production (scoring) in the sport is about the same as it had been before the home runs picked up.

I understand this phenomenon has taken about 17 years but the sport recovered from its drug scandals long before the power hitting came back.

Weightlifting will too. Time and ingenuity, even in a clean sport, will help restore the big totals we love seeing.

What’s next?

In a statement on the IWF website, it looks like a Congress held at the Junior Worlds in Tokyo agreed on an action plan to create two working groups.

These groups, Sport Program and an Anti-Doping, will be tasked with laying out new bodyweight categories, updating the Tokyo 2020 qualification system and preparing our response to the IOC. Another special IWF Congress will be held in September so we can assume it’s there the plans they come up with will be ratified and made known.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. If Weightlifting gets itself dumped by the IOC they should consider dropping “Fortius” from the motto.