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Olympic weightlifting champion charged with swapping urine samples

Nijat Rahimov

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Nijat Rahimov of Kazakhstan lifts during the Men’s 77kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Olympic weightlifting champion Nijat Rahimov of Kazakhstan has been charged with swapping his urine samples in a doping case that could threaten his gold medal.

The International Testing Agency said late Monday it charged Rahimov and Dumitru Captari of Romania with “an anti-doping rule violation for ‘urine substitution’ which would have occurred over a period of time in 2016.”

It is unclear if the allegations include the Rio Olympics, where Rahimov won with a world-record lift in the men’s 77kg division. Captari competed in the same event.

Rahimov’s performance was doubted even at the time in Rio.

Rahimov served a two-year ban from 2013-15 in a doping case while competing for Azerbaijan and only returned to represent Kazakhstan a few months before the Olympics.

The bronze medalist in Rio, Mohamed Mahmoud of Egypt, said of his rival’s rapid improvement, “in a very short time it cannot happen like that.”

The ITA said Rahimov and Captari have been provisionally suspended while disciplinary cases are prosecuted.

Weightlifting’s widespread doping and corruption issues were exposed one year ago by German broadcaster ARD. It led to the ousting of long-time International Weightlifting Federation president Tamas Aján, who also lost his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee.

The ARD program filmed Thailand lifter Rattikan Gulnoi, a bronze medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, talking about doping with steroids.

Gulnoi has now been charged with a doping violation, the ITA said.

Amid fallout from the German broadcast, the IWF hired doping investigator Richard McLaren to examine the sport’s problems.

“The review of these 146 files discovered in the wake of the McLaren report is progressing and the ITA should be able to complete it and resolve the pending matters by spring 2021,” the Lausanne-based agency said.

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