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Pacific lifters up against drug cheats

Tuesday 2 August 2016 | Published in Regional

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Coconuts and fish not going to win medals in Rio

OLYMPICS – Just days out from the opening of the Rio Olympic Games, a senior Oceania weightlifting official has called for a blanket ban on drug cheats in the sport who continue to tarnish the Games’ reputation.

Oceania Weightlifting Federation secretary Paul Coffa welcomed the expulsion of the Russian team but said a large number of drug cheats from other nations were still being allowed to compete in Brazil.

“We try and do the best we can – if these people think we’re stupid we’re not, these kids are not stupid, they know what’s going on but they put up with it,” he said.

“That’s why we are concentrating more on the Commonwealth Games because it’s an even playing field in there, while the Olympics are not.

“We have almost 10 per cent of weightlifters competing at the Games who have been positive in the past.”

“Almost 10 per cent, can you imagine that? They did their two years suspension or four years suspension and they’re back there,” he said.

“There’s nothing you can do until the IOC comes out pretty strong and says, ‘Right, Moldova, you’re out. Kazakhstan, you’re out’ – in the sport of weightlifting.”

Coffa has been mentoring and coaching lifters across the Pacific for more than 50 years.

He said the lifters from the Pacific competing in Rio would include some of the best in the world – if their opponents were clean.

“They are excellent lifters, excellent athletes, world-class athletes, but their chance of winning a medal in Rio is zero – and that is what disappoints me,” he said.

“Most of the Pacific island lifters are on rice, fish and coconut and they have no idea about using performance enhancing drugs, so they’re facing a big battle because the same countries who abuse drugs a lot are all there.

“The good old Eastern bloc countries – Moldova, Belarussia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Armenia, they’re all there, nothing has changed from the 1980s, nothing at all.”

Coffa said action needed to be taken against all the Eastern European nations who were known to be serial doping offenders, if the lifters representing nine Pacific countries were to be given a fair go. - ABC