Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)
July 26, 2004 Monday
Medal will just be a salvage job
EVEN a gold medal at the Olympics can only be considered a minor
salvage job on the wreckage that is Australian weightlifting.
Sergo Chakhoyan will head to Greece as the world No.1-rated lifter in
the 85kg class and is expected to vie with the host nation’s triple
gold medallist Pyrros Dimas for top honours in Athens.
Ultimately, though, anything Chakhoyan achieves will be undermined by
the drug scandals and selection debacle that has battered the sport in
the lead-up to the Games.
Weightlifting has long had more than its share of doping problems –
exemplified by the 11 positive tests at the 2003 World Championships
– but Australia had remained relatively clean.
It started with two peripheral squad members, Seen Lee and Anthony
Martin, both receiving two-year bans for steroid use.
Much worse was to come as it was revealed Australia’s sole women’s
representative Caroline Pileggi refused to take a drugs test while
training in Fiji.
Pileggi, too, was given a two-year ban which she unsuccessfully
appealed and was replaced in the team by Deborah Lovely.
Questions have been raised about Chakhoyan – who has already served a
two-year ban for steroid use in 2001 – after the Australian Olympic
Committee could not locate the lifter for three and a half months
while he was training in Armenia.
But a doping test he had in Armenia three months before the Games
came back negative.
Chakhoyan can’t turn things around for the sport, but he can win
Fifth at the Sydney Olympics, Chakhoyan won gold in the snatch
(non-Olympic) at last year’s world championships in Vancouver, and
bronze in the clean-and-jerk.
Australian officials said he was not 100 per cent fit at the time.
But Dimas may still have an edge with partisan support and the lure
of an unprecedented fourth Olympic weightlifting gold.