Russian Training: Part III

Russian Training: Part III

Andrew “Bud” Charniga

Sportivny Press

Since science doesn’t stand still, recent events dictate a follow up to Russian Training parts one and two. New tactics such as retroactive testing, more sophisticated procedures, software and the like are the latest deterrents to combat doping in sport.     

Recently the International Olympic Committee ordered a re – testing of selected samples from doping controls of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The initial results (apparently more are forthcoming) collectively produced 54 positive results from the two Olympiads. Of these 54, 20 were from the weightlifting.

Two previous articles covered aspects of the recent history of Russian weightlifters’ participation in the Olympic Games and some myths regarding their training methodology.

It is more than apparent, from the data and other information presented here, there is a strong connection between a training system based on Russian techniques which evolved from the era when the use of performance enhancers became wide spread and problems with modern testing protocols for prohibitive substances. This system along with its various permutations is based on a large volume of assistance exercises and periodization training with cycles emphasizing the development of muscle mass and perfection of a Russian pull.  

Since a portion of the critique presented in parts I and II dealt with the checkered performance of the Russian Olympians from 2000 – 2012 that area needs to be updated in light of the current knowledge of positives from those competitions.

2008 Olympics in Beijing

Instead of no positives from the 2008 Olympics retroactive testing revealed there were in fact two Russian females positive (see table 1). One of those two would later be positive in 2013. Consequently, Russia will forfeit one bronze and one silver medal.

2012 Olympics in London

There was one Russian male (85 kg class) found to be positive retroactively from London. This medal stands to be forfeited; but the 94 kg Russian silver medalist stands to gain a gold medal because the gold medalist from Kazakhstan was found to be positive.

On the female side, two Russian silver medalists stand to gain gold because two of the three Kazakhstan female gold medalists won their respective weight classes. Curiously, the 75 kg Kazakhstan gold medalist was positive in 2006 while representing Russia. She went on to represent Kazakhstan; but was unable to enter the Beijing Games because her suspension was up on July 18, 2008, i.e., just weeks before the games.

That being said, it should be emphasized that more results are forthcoming. Furthermore, as already noted, new tactics, new technology and so forth caught these athletes four and eight years down the road. Consequently, since IOC can hold samples for up to ten years to re – test at their discretion; selected Olympians from London had best sleep with one eye open until at least after the 2020 Olympics.

The Nineteen (20)

The two previous articles may have made some disagree with the conclusion that a culture of doping was widespread throughout the 15 republics of the former USSR. Some might think this was an exaggeration; based on the small sample of 24 positives from the world championships in Houston. Well then, it is necessary to peruse the list of 20 positive results (nineteen separate athletes) in table 1.

  Table 1. Confirmed positives from Beijing and London Olympics and with ties to the former USSR

bdwt Gen Nat 2008 2012 USSR Agent Med
93.64  M  KAZ  X    X  3  G
93.52  M  KAZ    X  X  1;3  G
74.58  F  KAZ    X  X  3  G
52.7  F  KAZ    X  X  3;4  G
62.21  F  KAZ    X  X  3  G
73.33  F  RUS  X    X  1  B
57.93  F  RUS  X    X  1;3  S
84.75 M  RUS    X  X  1;2  S
147.30  M  BLR    X  X  1;3;4  9th
68.49  F  BLR    X  X  2;3  4th
68.21  F  BLR    X  X  1;3  B
57.60  F  UKR    X  X  1  B
56.93  F  AZE    X  X  1;3  5th
74.74  F  ARM  X    X  3  11th
68.90  M  ARM  X    X  1;3  B
68.68  M  MDA  X    X  3  9th
47.84  F  TUR  X      3  0
47.80  F  TUR  X      3  S
84.52  M  AZE  X    X  1  9th
61.96  M  AZE  X    X  1  0
totals  1/F    10  10  18    12/m


  1. Dehydrochloromethytestosterone
  2. Drostalone
  3. Stanozolol
  4. Oxandrolone

Medal: G, S, B, or place #

Eighteen of the twenty (90%) positive results were from countries which were at one time part of the Soviet Union. Nineteen of the 24 (79%) positives from the 2015 world championships in Houston were from the former USSR. So, 37 of 44 or 84% of these recent failures were former Soviets.

Several aspects of the data in table 1 should at least call into question myths about testing.

/ the very narrow range of substances abused (what happened to all those designer drugs?);

/ there are no ‘new’ drugs ( Nguyen, H. 2012, A De- masculinization of Strength, Charniga, 2012); the list from Beijing and from Houston are all the old hormone based drugs;

/ the information as to what is ‘safe’ to use and when to stop is out of date;

/ the out of competition protocols which should be an impediment to cheaters has had and still has loop holes;

/ the disproportionate number of females (12 of 19 and 6 of 24) and lack of Asians may reflect two factors:

1/ none of the females were in the +75 class, presumably, most if not all, (especially those from Beijing) had to lose weight. Women have more fat mass than males; with weight loss, especially close to the competitions fat cells broken down in the weight loss process, possibly retain traces of prior use of banned substances;

2/ of the eighteen females positive from Beijing and Houston collectively, only one was Asian. This could indicate one or more sociological factors. For instance, it has been documented there has never been an ingrained PED drug culture in Asia; or at the very least, anywhere near that of Europe and America.

Most androcentric societies consider females physiologically and psychologically inferior to males; the disparity may reflect practice following attitude. For instance, if estrogen is believed to be the hormone that produces fat and testosterone builds muscle, European and American coaches would tend to view supplementation with anabolic agents a necessity to train a “fat producing” female to perform in a man’s sport.

On the other hand, if it can be said Asian cultures view women as inferior; but, indeed, capable of performing large amounts physical labor, in the fields and such, a very large training loading would reflect this approach. And, this has been documented (A De- masculinization of Strength, Charniga, 2012). Consequently, sociological differences in approach to producing a strongwoman in a sport traditionally reserved for males, may be behind these test disparities.


Charniga photos.

The obvious conclusion that must be drawn from the huge disproportionality in the number of positives from the former USSR is that their ideas of training are at the present time based on the use of pharmacological aids; inculcated and deeply embedded in the ranks of coaches and athletes dating back to at least the 1960s.

Obvious Flaws in the OOC Protocols

“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” – Will Rogers

The information presented below is based solely on published (online) accounts. It may by no means, constitute a complete accounting of each athlete’s test history. However, this is all we have to go by. Nonetheless, the trends revealed constitute a major loop hole in the testing protocols. 

Note that critical data is missing. An essential question to ask is how many and what are the dates of tests each lifter may have missed by not being available for no – notice out of competition testing (OOC). The rule states more than two missed tests in a 12 – month period is an automatic suspension. 


Charniga photo.

Furthermore, another question which of course is the most important one, were the established protocols adhered to, i.e., the reliability of the doping control officers (DCO) assigned out of competition testing. For instance, according to the WADA investigation RUSADA (the Russian Anti – Doping Agency) was unreliable. Accordingly, WADA investigations of Russian doping in Track and Field found the activities of RUSADA rife with corruption and this agency was declared non – compliant.

A recent follow up report issued prior to the IAAF meeting in June of 2016 to decide if the Russians had cleaned up their act and should be allowed to send a Track team to Rio, revealed there were still problems with reliability.

For instance, some “national championships for Olympic sports including Olympic qualifiers held in cities with restricted access due to ongoing civil conflicts resulting in service providers declining test requests. As a result, the national weightlifting and Greco – Roman wrestling championships were not tested.” The recent president’s cup in December of 2015 is another example. The event was held in Chechniya which has had a series of civil rights problems for years. This location would tend to deter attendance of doping control officers contracted by the WADA because of the unreliability of RUSADA  DCOs.

The following four cases reveal an obvious loophole in the OOC testing system. Each athlete entered and exited the IWF testing pool after a positive result, then re – appeared after two years to record big results.


Charniga photo.

All four:

/ were found positive for doping.

/ dropped out of the testing pool during their two – year suspensions;

/ returned to big competitions shortly after their suspensions were up and made big results {for example: #2 was positive with 385 total at 94 kg. Over the course of his two – year suspension he gained 10 kg adding 36 kg to his total};

/ returned from two year suspensions to become world champion;

/ one had a second positive result after returning from his two year suspension.

The only logical assumption: all four were doping during their two years’ suspensions, unimpeded by the threat of testing.

The testing histories:

1/ T., L. GEO

2010 Competitions and tests

IWF Youth Qualif. 124.30 158 + 187 = 345

2010 WWC 130.34  162 + 0 = 0

2011 Competitions and tests

Included in the IWF Testing pool for 2011 (94 kg M)

2011 EURJC 141.40 185 + 217 = 402 09/17/2011

2011 WWC 143.11 180 + 207 = 387

2012 Competitions and tests

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2012

EURJCU23  148.20 190 + 222 = 412 12/082012

2013 Competitions and tests

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2013

JWWC 156.15 190 + 221 = 401 05:10:2013

EURJC 154.50 190 + 225 = 415 09:27:2013 Positive for Stanozolol

Sanctioned: 10:17:2013 – 10:17:2015

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2014
Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2015

2015 Competitions and tests

2015 WWC 155.12 207 + 247 = 454

Included in the testing pool for 2016

Out of competition tests from November 2015 until April 2016???? Missed tests?????

Tested at 2016 European Chps. 156.76  212 + 251 = 463

Out of competition testing from April 2016 until present????? Missed tests?????

2/ Z., A., KAZ

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2012

OOC 02/17/2012; OOC 06/30/2012

Competed in London 94.74 155 + 205 = 360

Tested in 2013:
2013 Asian Chps results: 93.45 kg 175 + 210 = 385 06:24:2013 DQ for Stanozolol

Summer Universiade 07:12:2013

OOC 08:28:2013

Sanctioned two years 06:24:2013 to 06:24:2015

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2014

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2015

2015 Competitions and tests

2015 WWC 104.37 kg  191 + 230 = 421

Included in the testing pool for 2016

Missed tests?????

Did not compete at the 2016 Asian chps.

Out of competition tests in 2016????? Missed tests?????

3/ K., Z., KAZ

Not included in the IWF testing pool for 2011

2011 Asian Junior Chps. 89.20 156 + 190 = 346

2012 Competitions and tests

2012 JWC 92.00 165 + 198 = 363 05/16/2012

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2012

2012 Asian Junior Youth Chps.  11:11:2012 Stanozolol

Sanctioned from 11:11:2012 to 11:11:2014

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2013

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2014

2014 WWC: 93.89 179 + 229 = 408

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2015

2015 Competitions and tests

Did not compete at the 2015 Asian chps. Missed tests?????

2015 WWC 93.74 178 + 221 = 399 12/12/2015 Positive for doping Dehydrochloromethyl- testosterone

Sanctioned 12/12/2015 – 12/12/2023

Out of competition tests in 2015?? Missed tests?????

4/ R., N. AZE/KAZ

2009 YWWC 67.48 115 + 146 = 261

2009 EUR YouthC 67.99 121 + 145 = 266

2010 YOQEVENT 68.30 131 + 159 = 290

2010 YOG 68.76 134 + 161 = 295

Included in IWF testing pool 2011

2011 EJC 68.6 132 + 155 = 287

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2012

2012 JWC 74.17 148 + 185 = 333

2012 EJC 72.50 150 + 182 =  332

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2013

2013 JWC 76.46 153 + 187 = 340

Tested 05/17/13 @JWC

2013 SumUnivsiade 73.98  152 + 0 = 0

Tested OOC 06/19/13

positive for Oxandrolone/Dihydromethyltestosterone

Suspended 06/19/13 – 6/19/2015

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2014

Not Included in the IWF testing pool for 2015

Competed for Kazakhstan at 2015 WWC 75.88 165 + 207 = 372 attempted: 211 WR

Included in the IWF testing pool for 2016 for KAZ

Missed OOC tests in 2016?????

Did not compete in 2016 Asian chps.

Out of competition tests in 2016??

AZE had 18 POS in 2013; 0 in 2014; 6 in 2015


Obvious solutions need to include the problem of ‘doper clinics’

That the current environment for testing for PEDs has had a profound effect on the sport of weightlifting, track and field and others is obvious from readily accessible data (Charniga, 2012; 2016). Nevertheless, current weightlifting results are extraordinarily high considering the state of affairs which existed in the 1980s, when most of the male records set by 1988 are still just a dream for today’s lifters. Even the IAAF is considering nullifying some of the legacy records set in the 1980s in power events like the female 100m; 200m; shot put; hammer, long jump and others. 

The current OOC testing system has holes in it which need to be plugged. Clearly anyone positive for doping at an international competition or in OOC should be tested quarterly during their suspension if the athlete plans to return to competition. This, at the expense of either the guilty party or his/her federation.

The problem of unreliable partners charged with OOC testing in their respective countries like RUSADA has to be resolved because this type of situation makes a mockery of OOC testing and is grossly unfair to athletes from countries with reliable partners.

‘Doper Clinics’

Another issue which is not only “part of the problem” but even exacerbates the search for solution is the popularity of ‘doper clinics’.

Weightlifting clubs and hapless exercise emporiums frequently hire former Russian lifters, bloated with banned drugs, to give weightlifting clinics. They are former competitive lifters because they cannot train for and compete clean after years of using banned substances. 

This is an insult to legitimate sport. Unbeknownst the ignorant, to the unsuspecting, or just plain dumb, ‘doper’ expertise is highly questionable. Their knowledge of techniques and methods are tied to drugs banned in legitimate sport. Most of their conveyance, if not presented along with schedules for use of tablets and syringes and the like, is worthless.

Another example of this culture of ignorance in promoting and flaunting the use of banned drugs occurred at the World championships in Houston:

“a number of young, national caliber American lifters whom had been solicited to come to Houston to volunteer as translators and so forth. They came at their own expense; on their time. These very same lifters, these volunteers, had a national championship coming up the following weekend in Reno. Yet these volunteers, die hard lifting enthusiasts were treated discourteously, even rudely by the paid USAW staff and told to find suitable training elsewhere; at their own expense of course.

As pathetic as that sounds, imagine allowing a Russian bloated with drugs who had no capacity Houston, to use the facilities and be filmed to promote his upcoming phony lifting seminars in the USA.

Yet our young lifters, our volunteers, could not train on the premises for an upcoming national championships. Even a three – time Olympic champion who wanted to do some exercise was excluded from that area.”

To those who want to see the sport cleaned up, who want to have level playing fields, you can’t expect to eradicate the scourge of doping relying solely on elected officials and such running around with urine sample containers. The coaches, athletes and clubs who celebrate these ‘doper’ deadbeats are part of the problem too. They need to get with the program and stop promoting the deadbeats.


/ “Russian Training Parts: I and II,

/ Charniga, A., A De- masculinization of strength, Sportivny Press, Livonia, Michigan

/ Nguyen, H., Personal communication, 2012

/ “Status Update Concerning Russian Testing”, World Anti – Doping Agency

/ International weightlifting Federation web site: