Don't Punish the Innocent . . .

Following the multiple positive doping results produced by Russian and Iranian weightlifters, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) suspended the guilty athletes and imposed massive fines on the two federations, but did not suspend them - leaving some people wondering why not.

IWF president Dr. Tamas Ajan answered the question for IronMind®, explaining that while suspension of the entire federation had been a disciplinary measure used for doping offenses in the past, he championed a change in this procedure, saying, "We don't want to punish the innocent competitors."

To understand these dynamics, consider the example of the eleven Iranian weightlifters who were recently tested by WADA: Although nine were positive, notably, the sport's superstar - super heavyweight Hossein Rezazadeh - was one of the two who were negative in this extremely high-level test. Dr. Ajan said that under the prior system, "the first star of weightlifting, Hossein Rezazadeh, would have been ineligible to compete at either the 2006 World Weightlifting Championships or here at the Asian Games. Personally, I made a proposal," Dr. Ajan said, to change this.

As has been widely reported, the Iranian Weightlifting Federation was fined US$400,000 and a source close to the Iranian weightlifting team told IronMind® that US$150,000 has already been paid, with the balance due in installments.

"Why so much money?" Asked Dr. Ajan, going on to explain that the IWF has already spent over US$500,000 on doping tests this year. Added to this substantial financial burden, he said, is the need to offset the loss of income resulting from sponsors either withdrawing or being more conservative in their support following positive doping incidents. Dr. Ajan also said that part of the IWF's anti-doping program is to stimulate better education and more frequent testing in the countries that are producing positive doping results, which is expensive.

The huge fines being levied for these recent offenses have gotten plenty of attention within the weightlifting world, not the least of which is coming from the federations at the receiving end. How effective are the fines compared to the suspensions? "They are taken much more seriously," Dr. Ajan said.

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