Maxim Agapitov said the nine suspended nations would be allowed back for Buenos Aires 2018 ©ITG

Russia and the other eight nations which are banned from weightlifting for a year are preparing for an early return to competition at the Summer Youth Olympic Games, which take place before the suspensions have run their course. 

The nine nations - Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Turkey - were suspended by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) until October 19 this year for having multiple positives in the retesting of doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.

Maxim Agapitov, President of the Russian Weightlifting Federation (RFWF), said the IWF had offered the nine a chance to return early provided they meet certain conditions, and only at youth - 15 to 17-years-old - level.

The nine are deemed by the IWF to have made good progress in trying to eradicate the doping culture that has caused the sport so many problems, said Agapitov, and the length of suspension at youth level would be cut from 12 months to 10.

Junior, 17 to 20-years-old, and senior teams will have to see out the full one-year suspension.

This means that all nine nations will be eligible to take part in the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, beginning on October 6.

The nine have been informed, and the decision is expected to be ratified by the IWF Executive Board when they meet in the United States between March 26 and 27, said Agapitov.

Ten current world youth champions come from the suspended nations, and at the last Youth Olympics in Nanjing in 2014 the nine collectively had five winners, among them Armenia's Simon Martirosyan, a 105 kilograms silver medallist at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Simon Martirosyan of Armenia won Youth Olympic gold in 2014 and then silver at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Simon Martirosyan of Armenia won Youth Olympic gold in 2014 and then silver at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

Russia hopes to send two girls and one boy to Buenos Aires.

"We have made very good progress, and we are taking huge steps against doping in Russia," Agapitov said.

"I went to Budapest to see Tamás Aján [President of the IWF] and when I told him of the work we have done he was amazed.

"He said it was an example to the other eight suspended countries, and to the rest of the world."

Russia, which had 10 positives in the Olympic retests, the equal highest with Kazakhstan, started by setting up a new website and signing a new agreement with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).

The website has personalised pages for all athletes and coaches, and is used for education, monitoring their whereabouts and testing their anti-doping knowledge.

"Everybody, athletes and coaches, must go through the education process to be eligible for the national team," Agapitov told insidethegames.

"Of 480 registered athletes, 410 have so far passed an examination to qualify, which is very good progress.

"Next week we have the Russian Cup, and those who have not qualified through the examination will be excluded from the national team - no salary, no competition.

"Mistakes have been made in the past because a lot of athletes, even at the top level, did not have sufficient knowledge of the anti-doping rules."

The RFWF is also keeping a closer watch on athletes, and will pass on information to RUSADA if there are any suspicions about specific athletes.

A new 32-point agreement has been signed with RUSADA, and the two bodies will compile a "blacklist" of athletes such as those who, for example, disappear from a competition when testers turn up unannounced.

Buenos Aires 2018 will begin on October 6 ©Getty Images
Buenos Aires 2018 will begin on October 6 ©Getty Images

RUSADA will work closely with the RFWF at all national competitions.

"The website and the new agreement are two huge steps, and we are doing more," said Agapitov, who hopes to host a four-day anti-doping seminar for the Russian-speaking nations in Moscow in May.

All nine suspended nations would attend, as well as six other former Soviet republics, representatives from between 40 to 45 regions of Russia, 26 coaches who work with the Russian national teams and officials from Russia's National Olympic Committee.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), World Anti-Doping Agency, the IWF and Russia's Ministry of Sport would also be there, said Agapitov.

Last December, the IOC put weightlifting "on probation".

The sport, which has suffered from persistent doping problems for many years, must satisfy the IOC that it is doing all it can to counter the doping culture in certain countries - mostly from the former Soviet Bloc - if it is to retain its place on the Olympic Games schedule.

The IWF is due to report to the IOC in June on progress made to date.