Albanian lifter becomes European champion, overshadowing country’s doping scandal

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 29, 2018 09:58

Albanian lifter becomes European champion, overshadowing country’s doping scandal

TIRANA, March 29 – Briken Calja claimed three gold medals at the European Senior Weightlifting Championships in Romania this week, bringing back glory to Albanian weightlifting following a doping scandal earlier this year.

The 28-year-old Albanian lifted 146 kg in snatch and 175 kg in clean and jerk claiming gold in each discipline and finishing first with a total of 321 kg.

“I am so happy. I dedicate my success to my family, friends and all Albanians,” said Calja.

The 28 year-old lifter represented Albania twice in the Olympics Games, finishing fifth at the 2012 Rio Olympics. In 2013, he tested positive for doping and was handed a two-year suspension.

Albania’s Weightlifting Federation is confident Calja is clean and faces no threat of having his medals revoked and bringing back shame to the country’s traditionally best performing sport.

The doping scandal this year led to the resignation of the president of Albania’s Weightlifting Federation and Albania losing its right to host the March 2018 Senior European Weightlifting Championships.

The European Senior Weightlifting Championships was initially scheduled to be held in Albania but the European Weightlifting Federation stripped Albania of hosting the championships after Albanian weightlifter Romela Begaj failed a doping test and was stripped of the medals she claimed at the late 2017 IWF World championships in the U.S.

The 31-year-old athlete who competed in the women’s 69 kg was confirmed positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, even in her second test and now risks being handed an 8-year suspension, putting an end to her career with two doping suspensions.

Meanwhile, Erkand Qerimaj, who made a last-minute withdrawal from the Romania Championships this week because of health problems, earned a bronze snatch medal at the men’s 77 kg at the IWF World championships in the U.S. after a Romanian bronze medalist tested positive for a banned substance.

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.

Ilirjan Suli finished fifth in the men’s middleweight category at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Romela Begaj was sixth in the women’s lightweight at 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 29, 2018 09:58