Olympic champion among 4 Thai weightlifters to test positive

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              FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 file photo, Sopita Tanasan of Thailand, competes in the women's 48kg weightlifting competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Tanasan won the gold medal. Olympic gold medalist Sopita Tanasan with two world champion weightlifters are among four Thai weightlifters to test positive for banned steroids, the International Weightlifting Federation announced on Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — An Olympic champion was among four Thai weightlifters to test positive for doping, the International Weightlifting Federation said Tuesday.

Sopita Tanasan, who won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, tested positive for steroids and artificial testosterone after finishing fourth at the world championships in November.

Two others, Thunya Sukcharoen and Sukanya Srisurat, won world titles at the competition and risk being stripped of their medals after also testing positive for at least one anabolic steroid and artificial testosterone. If found guilty, Srisurat faces a potential eight-year ban for a second offense.

Chitchanok Pulsabsakul also failed a doping test after finishing sixth.

Weightlifting is under pressure from the International Olympic Committee to crack down on drug use after dozens of doping cases. In one event from the 2012 Olympics, six of the top seven finishers were later disqualified for doping.

Weightlifting is still on the Olympic program for next year’s Tokyo Games, but only provisionally for 2024.

The IWF said all world championship competitors’ tests initially came back clean, but the Thai cases followed extra analysis of certain “target” athletes “using the most sophisticated available technique” at a German lab.

“The IWF remains committed to implement the most advanced testing techniques to ensure that the very small minority who cheat are identified and sanctioned,” the federation said.

The IWF has previously tried to fight doping by banning countries with the most cases and reducing their Olympic qualification spots. Russia and China were among nine countries banned from international weightlifting for a year from 2017, but have since returned to competition.