Sopita Tanasan is one of four Thai lifters named by the IWF ©Getty Images

Two Olympic champions are among four new doping positives from Thailand's 2018 World Championships team, taking to six the number of Thais who have failed tests from the International Weightlifting Federation's (IWF) flagship event in Turkmenistan last November.

The results are likely to have devastating consequences for Thailand, which stands to lose hosting rights for this year's IWF World Championships and also faces the possibility of outright exclusion from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The four new cases came to light because of advanced testing techniques used by the IWF in a laboratory in Cologne, on samples from "targeted" athletes.

Under the IWF's new anti-doping policy, which was adopted last April, any nation with three or more positives in a calendar year is liable to a suspension of up to four years and a fine of up to $200,000 (£153,000/€176,000).

Additionally, "any or all team officials" can be banned for up to two years.

The decision is in the hands of the Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel, a body set up by the IWF to deal with cases such as this.

The four new positives, all women, are the reigning Olympic champions Sopita Tanasan at 48 kilograms and Sukanya Srisurat at 58kg, as well as Thunya Sukcharoen and Chitchanok Pulsabsakul.

Sukanya Srisurat is another Olympic champion to fail ©Getty Images
Sukanya Srisurat is another Olympic champion to fail ©Getty Images

Pulsabsakul has failed for androstane with the other three failing for testosterone. 

Tanasan was the IWF female weightlifter of the year in 2016, and Srisurat is one of the six nominations for the 2018 award.

Two earlier positives from Turkmenistan, announced on December 23, were the 17-year-old male lifter Teerapat Chomchuen and the women's super-heavyweight bronze medallist Duanganksnorn Chaidee.

Srisurat and Sukcharoen both won gold in the World Championships in Ashgabat, while two of the four - Srisurat and Pulsabsakul - were banned for doping in 2011 when they were among seven Thai teenagers who tested positive.

Having six positives at the IWF's biggest competition is a huge embarrassment to the Thailand Amateur Weightlifting Federation (TAWA) with the news announced only two weeks after a visit to the IWF's Budapest headquarters by its top officials.

TAWA said in a statement on social media that it would be holding an inquiry into the new cases, and was "greatly surprised and confused" by the IWF's announcement.

It did not reply to an email asking if it intended to withdraw from hosting the 2019 IWF World Championships, scheduled for Pattaya between September 16 and 25.

The President of TAWA, Boossaba Yodbangtoey, is general secretary of the Asian Weightlifting Federation and her husband, Major General Intarat Yodbangtoey, is first vice-president of the IWF.

They were both in Budapest recently to meet Tamás Aján, President of the IWF, when Boossaba spoke of this year's World Championships being "better than ever" and also pointed out that weightlifting was the most popular Olympic sport in Thailand.

The IWF said in a statement: "Despite testing about 52 per cent of all participating athletes at the 2018 IWF World Championships, no adverse analytical findings (AAF) were initially recorded.

"But further analysis in collaboration with the IWF's Athlete Passport Management Unit, the Cologne Anti-Doping Laboratory, saw further analysis carried out on target athletes' samples using the most sophisticated available technique: gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry.

"As a result, four additional AAFs by Thai weightlifters were revealed. 

"In recent years, the IWF has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to make the most difficult decisions in favour of protecting clean athletes and promoting clean sport.

"The IWF remains committed to implement the most advanced testing techniques to ensure that the very small minority who cheat are identified and sanctioned.

Thai weightlifting officials met IWF President Tamás Aján earlier this month ©IWF
Thai weightlifting officials met IWF President Tamás Aján earlier this month ©IWF

"With the IWF's anti-doping efforts before, during and after the 2018 IWF World Weightlifting Championships, this was proven once again.

"To ensure an independent decision-making process, all available data has already been provided to the Independent Member Federation Sanctioning Panel for discussion and decision at their sole discretion, according to IWF Anti-Doping Policy Article 12.

"The IWF previously suspended nine Member Federations and accompanied their suspension with education and rehabilitation, in order to change cultures in high-risk countries.

"While it is regrettable that such support should be needed for a Member Federation, the IWF will not hesitate to provide it if necessary."

The International Olympic Committee's Executive Board noted "progress" made by the IWF in Tokyo in November but kept the sport's provisional status for Paris 2024.

This was despite praise for the "Tbilisi Decision" which saw nine nations - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine - banned for a year for three or more positives in Olympic retests.