Tawa to appeal 'unfair' doping ban

Tawa to appeal 'unfair' doping ban

IWF sanctions include a hefty $200,000 fine

Sopita Tanasan, left, and Sukanya Srisurat pose with their Olympic gold medals during a homecoming parade in Bangkok after their wins at the 2016 Rio Games. (AFP photo)
Sopita Tanasan, left, and Sukanya Srisurat pose with their Olympic gold medals during a homecoming parade in Bangkok after their wins at the 2016 Rio Games. (AFP photo)

The Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (Tawa) will appeal the International Weightlifting Federation's (IWF) ruling which bans its athletes from taking part in the Tokyo Olympics, among other sanctions, over doping, a senior Thai official said on Sunday.

"It is too harsh and unfair," IWF vice president Intarat Yodbangtoey said in a press release issued by Tawa.

"Tawa will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to seek fairness."

Maj Gen Intarat, a former Tawa president, said the IWF had suspended China and Russia for only one year in similar cases in the past.

The IWF said in a statement on Saturday that athletes from Thailand, as well as those from Malaysia, "shall not compete at the Tokyo Games, regardless of the change of date".

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak and are now scheduled to be held from July 23-Aug 8, 2021.

The Thai and Malaysian federations can appeal the IWF ruling to the CAS within 21 days, the IWF said.

The IWF also imposed a US$200,000 (approximately 6.5 million baht) fine on Tawa, which had already voluntarily banned itself from all competitions, including this year's Tokyo Olympics Games, because of its recent doping record.

The IWF said the sanctions imposed on the two countries were made by the Independent Member Federation Sanctions Panel (IMFSP) following hearings and "careful consideration of relevant evidence".

The IMFSP, which was approved by the IWF executive board in November 2018, has the sole authority to impose sanctions on member federations, the sport's governing body said.

Under the ruling, Thailand's under-18 athletes are prohibited from participating in international competitions for an additional five months following the next IWF event whenever it takes place.

All other Tawa athletes are banned from participating in international competitions for an additional 11 months following the next IWF event whenever it takes place, the IWF said.

Tawa athletes have already been suspended since March 7, 2019.

The additional sanction periods imposed by the IMFSP will not start to run during the period in which all IWF events are cancelled or postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IWF said.

Intarat said yesterday the IMFSP's role should be reviewed.

Eight Thai weightlifters, including 2016 Rio Olympic champions Sukanya Srisurat and Sopita Tanasan, tested positive for banned substances at the 2018 world championships.

The Thais were caught when the IWF carried out extra tests in Cologne, Germany, on samples taken in November 2018 from "target athletes" at the world championships in Turkmenistan.

Tawa bosses claimed they and their athletes were innocent and blamed their Chinese coach for using gel with banned substances without their knowledge.

The Chinese coach has since been sent home, according to Tawa.

The country was also involved in a doping scandal in 2011 when seven teenage girls were banned after testing positive.

Among them were Sukanya and Chitchanok Pulsabsakul who were suspended for two years and were both named again in the 2018 case.

In Saturday's announcement, the IWF suspended Tawa's membership status for three years, saying the sanction will be reviewed on or after March 7, 2022 if "Tawa can demonstrate it has met pre-defined criteria".

This means Tawa officials are not eligible to be appointed to any IWF position as long as the Thai association remains suspended.

Maj Gen Intarat does not have a position at Tawa.

In January, all Tawa board members, including its president Boossaba Yodbangtoey, resigned less than a month after allegations of doping by child weightlifters were made in a German TV documentary.

The programme also filmed Thailand's 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Rattikan (now Siripuch) Gulnoi admitting to using steroids when she was 18 years old.

Last month, Prachya Keeratinan was elected unopposed as Tawa president.

Weightlifting is Thailand's most successful sport at the Olympics with five gold medals, followed by boxing with four.

They are the only two Thai sports associations which have brought Olympic gold medals to the country.

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