Kazakhstan: More Olympic Athletes Stripped of Medals
Kazakhstan’s medal haul from the 2012 London Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been further depleted as four more athletes were stripped of their medals after failing doping tests following a second round of testing.
Weightlifters Irina Nekrasova, a Beijing silver medallist, and bronze medallists Maria Grabovetskaya and Maiya Maneza along with wrestler Asset Mambetov, were stripped of their medals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 17 November after testing positive for banned substances.
Maneza already lost her gold medal from the London games on October 27, as did her fellow weightlifters Zulfiya Chinshanlo and Svetlana Podobedova. Wrestler Taimuraz Tigiyev was stripped of his silver medal from Beijing on October 26, bringing the total of medals reclaimed from Kazakhstan to eight.
All these athletes failed retests of samples given at the time. Earlier this year, the IOC began a comprehensive campaign of reanalysing samples, using the latest analytical methods, to try and keep this year’s games in Rio clean.
Grabovetskaya took to the press in Kazakhstan to proclaim her innocence, claiming in an interview with vesti.kz that she had not taken any illegal substances prior to the games, only painkillers.
“We were clean,” she said, referring to the rigorous testing the athletes underwent prior to the games. “We gave all to the [weightlifting] bar. And now I don’t understand it, when we’re asked to return the medal.”
Mystery surrounds the fate of Kazakhstan’s weightlifting superstar Ilya Ilyin, who, despite being named in June as having failed a doping retest, has yet to hear about the golds he won at Beijing and London.
Ahead of the Rio Olympics, Kazakhstan took no chances. Two weeks before the games all the competitors were tested, with the samples sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Dresden, Germany, for analysis. There were no reports of any athletes failing tests there.
Kazakhstan will be hoping that the doping cloud it has been under this year will finally lift, with just over two months left before Almaty hosts the biggest and most high-profile sporting event in the country’s history, the Winter Universiade, or World Student Games.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.