Follow-up to “About Stones and Glass Houses” Andrew Charniga

What follows are some clarifications/comments in the wake of events subsequent to the article ”About Stones and Glass Houses”; which include an investigation into the finances, doping policies, practices; the  eventual resignation of the IWF president and release of the McLaren report. Overall the report was sorely lacking any reasonable perspective as far as the problem of doping; an international problem across all sports.

As far as the effectiveness of doping controls is concerned, one of the salient points missed in the report’s castigation of testing procedures/protocols is the fact the IWF had in place the rudiments of perhaps the best program to curb doping circa the period 2006 – 2009.

These data of all athletes’ tests, with the designation in competition (IC) and out of competition (OOC) were posted on the IWF web site. Easy access to these names, dates and circumstances was invaluable in allowing interested parties to follow who and when anyone in the IWF testing pool was tested. These data were very useful in connecting the dots to an athlete’s progress in weight lifted against date(s) of testing; especially when coupled with other data such as change in bodyweight. With such information one can reason; in its absence one can only speculate.

A number of Soviet era papers dealt with the rate of progress in results one could anticipate from a weightlifter from year one to the cessation  of training after 12 – 17 years. Although the data is dated; the concepts are not; neither the finite capacity of the human body. Consequently, application of these concepts to tracking the possibility of aberrations in improvement of results from the use of PEDs over time make the public access of such testing data as the IWF made freely available; an invaluable aid to policing the sport from within.

An example of how utilization of such data and applied Soviet era concepts were applicable to the problem of doping appeared in the article “Russian training part III”. Gaps were exposed in the periodic testing of athletes; crossed referenced against their improvement in results over time; along with any alteration of bodyweight.

For example, the IWF’s testing data was also employed in 2008; later published in 2012. The IWF’s data was useful in comparing and contrasting the results of the Chinese females with those of the Russians who competed in Beijing for the book A De-masculinization of Strength. Some obtuse comments by a few Russian athletes in the wake of the Beijing Olympics prompted a search to determine what had transpired. In the months leading up to the Beijing Olympics; the IWF in addition to the already posted names/date list of tested athletes; sent doping control officers to the various training centers in Russia, China and so forth; in the January – February 2008 time frame.

These data of OOC tests were checked against IC test dates; cross – referenced to the results of the aforementioned athletes who competed in Beijing. Conclusions from this analysis are presented in the aforementioned book. The ability to do this type of analytical following of athletes’ results over time are difficult at best, without the online access to the testing data.

The USADA (US anti – Doping Agency) offers some public access to testing data. However, there are many gaps; such as number and dates of missed tests. Furthermore, public access to each athlete’s TUE (therapeutic use exemption data) is another huge gap considering how this legalized cheating has been abused; especially in the USA.

A gross mis-representation and downright false statement in the McLaren report was the following:

“Doping was so pervasive in the 1990s that had the IWF not acted, the records established during that period would likely remain unbroken up to the present”.

Not true. Two research papers from the Russian Institute of Sport by Medvedyev confirmed overall results declined at all major competitions in the 1990s. None of the world records in place in 1988 were ever approached in the  1990s.

Furthermore, there was and continues to this day a prolonged stagnation of improvement of records in male weightlifting world records (WR); especially the clean and jerk records established by and including the 1988 Olympics. Not one of the clean and jerk records (male) of 1988 has been equaled or exceeded; taking into account the two changes in the bodyweight classes in the 1990s. This circumstance was true as well for the snatch where only a relative handful of the post 1988 records have been breached.

For example, the closest anyone has come to exceeding one of these male clean and jerk records was OM from PRK at the 2018 Asian Games. He barely missed holding 172 kg on locked arms in the 56 kg class. That is as close anyone came to breaking the 171 kg established in 1987 by Neno Terziisky (BUL) in the 56 kg class; a record of 32 years!

In point of fact, overall weightlifting results went down in the 1990s (Medvedyev, 1999); so, the “pervasive doping” obviously was not very effective.

Research of Soviet sport scientist A.S. Medvedyev predicted a 7 – 20 year time frame for the records of 1988 to be overcome (see This was almost accurate for some of the snatch records. However, as  of 2020 all the 1988 C&J records are still out of reach. Medvedyev made several observations about the records set by 1988: / the rate was slowing by the end of the decade as a possibility records were becoming very close to the limits; / the effects the of the PED’s of that period had declined over time.

Here is another mis-statement:

“The period under investigation, between 2009 – 2019, was the worst decade of doping the sport of weightlifting has ever experienced. There were 58 (actually 59) positive tests on re – testing samples from Beijing and the London Olympic Games.” McLaren report.

This is not true. The period leading up to and including the 1988 Olympics was the most prolific period. The 59 positives were re – tests (of London and Beijing samples); all but 10 were from the former USSR and/or other aligned eastern bloc countries. Not one Asian athlete was positive for anabolic agents. In fact, several Asian research papers concluded, unlike Europe and the USA; there has not been a significant culture of doping in Asia. For instance, the McLaren report also falsely claimed the Korean team left the Seoul Olympics.

What happened to cause all the re – test positives? Testing technology leapt forward between 2008 – 2016. The tests of 2015-16 effectively were able to detect use of PEDs much further back in time after the athletes had stopped. The further back the tests could detect use; the lower the effectiveness of the drugs stopped in time to pass the technology of the day; hence, the stagnation in world records since 1988. Various sources (USSR, East Germany) attributed the stoppage of world records in weightlifting and track and field to “even the threat” of what were relatively crude out of competition testing protocols in the wake of the Seoul Olympics (Charniga, 2012).

Examples which confirm these conclusions are the stagnation of records in track and field parallel those in weightlifting. Some of the T&F records which still stand: the shot put world record set in 1990; the hammer 1986; long jump 1991; triple jump 1995; discus 1986; women’s 100 & 200 m, both 1988.  The world record in the women’s 100 m hurdles set in 1988 was finally beaten in 2016 by 0.01 seconds i.e, it stood for 29 years.

Figure 1. The closest anyone has actually come to breaking one of the clean and jerk records in place at the end of 1988. This 172 would have exceeded Terziisky’s (BUL) 171 kg at 56 kg set in 1987. Charniga photos.

Furthermore, by 2009, the scale of championship medals had long since tipped in favor Asia; now the dominant power in the sport, over the European countries.

As already pointed out, the effectiveness of testing is directly connected as to how far back the technology was/is capable of detecting if an athlete has used PEDs; and, most importantly when administration ceased. The further back in time the detection window is open, the more effective the controls; the lower the ergogenic effect as usage ceases in time to pass the testing protocols. This ‘wider window’ effect was evident already in the wake of the 1988 Olympics all the way to Beijing and London; with lower results in the Olympics compared to previous for so many athletes.

If that number 59 cited above sounds like a lot and it is. Recently the Kenyan runners have been the darlings of academics touting their muscle fiber composition, long, lighter shins and so forth as testimonial to their dominance in international distance races. Then:

“Kipketer joins the growing list of Kenyan athletes suspended for doping offences.

A total of 43 athletes, including the women’s 2016 Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong and three-time world 1,500m winner Asbel Kiprop, are currently banned from the sport.

Several others, like Kipketer, are awaiting hearings – the number of Kenyans currently serving bans could soon reach over 50

Kipketer is unlikely to be the last athlete this year to fall foul of failing to make themselves available for drugs testing, after the AIU warned on its website that it “will be taking a more stringent approach to whereabouts requirements in 2020”.

To put the re – test results in some reasonable perspective (which McLaren does not) it must be pointed out that those re – test positives (not just in weightlifting) passed the testing technology of the day in London and Beijing. Consequently, athletes did not test positive at the Games; with their lower results; in most cases; as proof administration ceased long enough to pass the technology of 2008 and 2012. A leap of chemistry opened the detection window to up to six months removed from cessation of administration; proof obtained from urine frozen eight years, no less.

Certainly, sports such as football, basketball, hockey, baseball and others could, would never have such standards as the IOC. Eight years on positives from frozen urine would never survive legal challenges. Imagine testing urine of NHL players frozen for eight years. Not likely. Who would be left to play, eh?

Another lack of perspective for instance. One of the two female Chinese gold medalists in weightlifting appealed her re – test of Beijing Olympics to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS). She was positive for two banned substances; one of which was sibutramine. The technology of 2008 was able to detect this banned inhalant in such a concentration “only if it appeared in quantities greater than 500 ng/ml”. The levels in her system at the time were so small as to be undetectable. A positive result for this substance is classified a ‘non – threshold’; which means however, infinitesimal the amount, it is treated the same as if performance enhancing effect was obtained even though this was highly improbable.

However, by 2016 new technology could detect quantities of sibutramine in a concentration of 50 ng/ml; a ten – fold increase in detection sensitivity of urine, frozen for eight years!

Both Chinese (including the one above) who appealed to the CAS admitted to receiving an “basket” injection for back and shoulder injuries a matter of weeks out from their respective competitions in Beijing. Their officials had checked with the banned list to make sure nothing in the injection was on it.

However, a category of S2 hormones was. Hiding in plain sight in the fine print on the list of banned substances this substance was stipulated in chemistry talk: “The following substances and their releasing factors are prohibited.”

In point of fact:

“GHRP-2” as such was not explicitly listed in the 2008 Prohibited List expressly. However, the 2008 Prohibited List under “S2 Hormones and related substances” provides: “The following substances and their releasing factors are prohibited”. CAS

A method to detect the presence of GHRP2 was not published or even implemented in 2008; therefore, the analysis performed by the Beijing laboratory was neither prepared nor capable of detecting the presence of GHRP2. In 2016, however, analytical devices and methods could detect of GHRP-2; eight years on in from frozen urine.

To put this circumstance into perspective, because no perspective is offered in the McLaren report; a tennis player’s case was adjudicated by the CAS. Her annual income ($25,000,000.00) exceeded the yearly budget of WADA. She succeeded in having her suspension reduced.

Her defense team included a doctor who made the following outlandish expostulations:

The Player used Mildronate:

“for an entirely legitimate purpose and not for any performance enhancing reason, nor any other sinister purpose as her medical history shows. In fact, in light of her significant medical problems (which included pain and discomfort in the precordial region complaints regarding exercise induced fatigue and psycho emotional overstrain; susceptibility to cold; related and inflammatory diseases; dizziness and symptoms of vegetative vascular dystonia; borderline abnormal electrocardiogram; and laboratory results mineral metabolism disorder and insufficient supply of nutrients through food intake and her risk factors.” CAS.

A rational explanation as to how such a “sick” woman could compete in the highly competitive world of super elite professional tennis was not forthcoming. A number of ‘sick’ Americans won gold in Rio in a similar fashion.

Well then, as far as the rest of us peasants are concerned; when, not if, the day comes administration of a foreign substance; even a legitimate medicine administered to a pregnant woman; can be traced back to the fetal stage of life; none of us will ever be safe entering an Olympic portal.

The upshot of all this is to make a simple point. Had the IWF consistently published the control data; the weightlifting community especially those working in weightlifting sport science could have taken an active part to assist in eradicating the problem by following results; establish norms over time and help police the weightlifting community in the modern era of the sport. And, as much as possible assisted in reducing the reliance on sport administers and politicians.

A Woman In Red

A disconcerting revelation from the McLaren report was the publication of a sample ballot for IWF elections of 2017. These ballots were issued to select delegates to vote for a specific slate of candidates including and especially the president. It had been alleged these delegates received monetary incentive for their vote of the slate.

An obvious, snipe from the McLaren people featured the lone woman on the ballot highlighted in red. The same ‘woman in red’ leading the charge to clean up the sport. This is the self same woman in red who tried to get a USA weightlifting employee elected Pan American weightlifting federation president; and, appointed an interim office in the IWF; a ‘my pals first mentality’ of political corruption. The Pan Am post would have automatically made the employee a voting member of the IWF executive board. This, even though he is paid to work in the office in Colorado springs while weightlifting sport in the USA is funded by unpaid volunteers.

Corruption with a Smile

At the very least, USA weightlifting should be audited for misappropriating funds to subsidize political ambitions of employees; to be investigated for their slipshod policing of doping (70 positives in the past three years); political nepotism. Or, just leak it to the press?

USA Weightlifting registered athletes  positive from USADA tests only {} as of 10-16-2020

year Positive
2020 14
2019 20
2018 18
2017 18
2016 9
2015 2
2014 3
2013 3


Charniga, A., A Demasculinization of Strength,, Livonia, Michigan. 2012