Gold medal would lift weight off Olympic team’s mind

Geelong Advertiser (Regional Daily), Australia
August 13, 2004 Friday

Gold medal would lift weight off Olympic team’s mind

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. He 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 titles — but
Australia had remained relatively clean. Until 2004.

It started with two peripheral squad members, Seen Lee and Anthony
Martin, receiving two-year bans for steroid use. Much worse was to
come, though, as it was revealed Australia’s sole women’s
representative, Caroline Pileggi, refused to take a drug 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.

Meanwhile, questions had been raised about Chakhoyan — who’d 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.

However, a test in Armenia three months before the Games was

And against the backdrop of the drugs controversy was a poor world
championship campaign and the debacle of the Oceania qualifiers,
where Australian weightlifting officials sent an understrength team
and then lost a qualifying spot to the tiny nation of Nauru.

Chakhoyan can’t turn things round for the sport but he can win gold.

Fifth at the Sydney Olympics, Chakhoyan won gold and bronze at last
year’s world titles in Vancouver.