Albanian lifter set for world bronze medal after Romanian rival fails doping test

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 24, 2018 15:56

Albanian lifter set for world bronze medal after Romanian rival fails doping test

TIRANA, Jan. 24 – Albania’s Erkand Qerimaj is on track to get a bronze medal in the men’s 77 kg after a Romanian weightlifter who finished third in snatch has been temporarily suspended over failing a doping test.

The news comes as a relief for Albanian weightlifting which has been hit by a new doping scandal after Romela Begaj tested positive, with the International Weightlifting Federation provisionally suspending her and stripping her of the medals she claimed in late 2017 at the IWF World championships in the U.S.

Begaj, who last December became Albania’s first ever world champion in women’s weightlifting, tested positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, which she also failed in a 2014, leading to a two-year ban. If confirmed positive in the B sample, the Albanian weightlifter risks facing a four-year ban and could also be banned for life, experts say.

The doping scandal, the second for Begaj in the past three years led to the resignation of the president of Albania’s Weightlifting Federation and Albania losing its right to host the 2018 Senior European Weightlifting Championships originally scheduled to take place in Tirana next March.

“Unfortunately the Executive Board of the Albanian Weightlifting Federation resigned because of a doping problem and the Albanian federation cannot organize the next Senior EWC at the end of March,” the EWF said in a statement, adding that it is looking for a new host country.

Erkand Qerimaj who lifted 155 kg in snatch finishing fourth is now heading for a bronze medal after Romanian weightlifter Dumitru Captari, the original bronze medal winner with 156 kg, tested positive for a banned substance.

Qerimaj finished sixth overall with a total of 342 kg after poor performance in the clean & jerk where he came ninth lifting 187 kg.

“That is very good news not only for me but all Albanians,” said Qerimaj, adding that both his blood and urine tests were clean.

The 27-year-old failed a doping test in 2012. Initially given a two-year ban, he returned to competition in July 2013 but was stripped of the gold medal he had won at the 2012 European Championships in Antalya, Turkey.

Albanian weightlifters have tested positive for doping ten times since 2011, marring the reputation of Albania’s traditionally best performing Olympic discipline at international competitions.

In 1972, late Ymer Pampuri set a world record at the Munich Olympic Games for the press at featherweight lifting 127.5 kg, finishing ninth overall following an injury. Pampuri, who died in early 2017 at 73, has since been a world record holder in the clean and press, which later in 1972 was removed from competition due to difficulties in judging proper technique and health concerns.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 24, 2018 15:56