Kazakhstan in Denial as Doping Scandal Taints Heroes
Kazakhstan has deployed sport in multiple ways over recent years to promote its image on the international stage, so a doping scandal affecting some of most famous athletes is hitting hard.
On June 21, evidence reportedly emerged that much-loved weightlifter Ilya Ilin appears to violated anti-doping rules during the 2008 Olympic Games, when he won a gold medal. That was on top of apparent proof that Ilin had failed doping tests from the 2012 Games in London. Last week, doping tests revealed that another three Kazakhstani weightlifters — Svetlana Podobedova, Maia Maneza, Zulfiya Chinshanlo — had also fallen foul of doping rules in 2012.
Top officials and the public in Kazakhstan have concertedly rallied to Ilin’s side.
Senate chairman Kassym Jomart-Tokayev registed his support on Twitter.
“Regardless of the decision taken on the athlete Ilya Ilin, he has earned our support as a leading sportsman and patriot of Kazakhstan,” he wrote.
Former member of parliament, Murat Abenov, said he was doubtful of the reliability of the new tests.
“Ilya grew up before our eyes, I have known him since he was a little boy. He is a very talented man and athlete. He has progressed toward his goals with determination,” told to state newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda.
Prime Minister Karim Masimov suggesting avoiding similar scandals in future by investing in a domestic, high-tech laboratory.
“Maybe we can buy a good laboratory through private sponsors,” he said in a statement on the government website. “That way there will be no unexpected surprises and our sportsmen can be confident when they go through this again.”
Predictably, there are some who suspect that Kazakhstan has become victim of a politicized hatchet job. This line of defense is incredibly weak but slightly more convincing when coming from Russia, which is embroiled in a spiraling diplomatic war with the West, but it is never quite clear who would be seeking to undermine Astana for political reasons.
Ilin’s personal trainer, Erzhas Boltai, told state news agency Khabar that the weightlifter will be traveling to France on June 22 to learn more about the case against him.
“We have a lot of doubts about the detection methods, which they say are new,” Boltai said.
With some rare exceptions, nobody seems to accept that Kazakhstan may have a problem with doping at all, which hardly augurs well.
Former world weightlifting champion Vladimir Sedov is pointing the finger at Aleksei Ni, the head trainer of Kazakhstan’s weightlifting team.
“Who is guilty? If you tell me it is Ilya Ilin, I will say a hard no. The one who is responsible for everything is Mister Ni. If you ask why, I say that it is because it was he that control what it is that the atheletes ate,” he wrote in his Instagram account.
Culture and Sports Minister Arystanbek Mukhamediuly has said the unfolding doping scandal will not affect Kazakhstan’s preparations for the Games in Rio this summer. That is a pretty rose-tinted way to look at things given that Ilin and other Kazakhstani athletes face lengthy disqualifications.
Mukhamediuly said Kazakhstan has currently 102 licenses to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games that another three to five are to be issued before June 25.
On June 27, the disciplinary commission of International Olympic Committee will make a final ruling on each athlete suspected of doping. If found guilty of doping, the athletes will be stripped of their medals. As of now, they are all suspended from the participation in Rio Olympics.