Brian Oliver ©ITG

On October 30 last year Tamás Aján, President of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), said: "While we will not take anything for granted we are confident that weightlifting will remain part of the Olympic programme at Paris 2024."

In the three months since then four Olympic champions have featured in a seemingly endless list of new doping cases, a 26-year-old woman racked up her third positive for three different countries, 70 athletes were barred from the IWF World Championships - whose host nation hired a suspended doper as a coach - and the hosts for this year's World Championships have been caught up in a scandal that leaves the IWF with a massive headache.

Last week, in response to the news that six members of Thailand's World Championships team had tested positive, one poster on a weightlifting social media site wrote: "No ******* way is this sport in the 2024 Olympics."

Those who agree had more than the Thailand situation on which to base their opinion.

In the 13 weeks since Aján voiced his confidence about the future, these stories have been covered by insidethegames:

October 27 - More than 70 athletes are barred from the World Championships in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for failing to update their whereabouts information on the testing database.

November 4 - The world junior champion Yeison Lopez Lopez, one of the best young talents in weightlifting, is one of two Colombians suspended for doping violations.

November 11 - Revealed: Hosts Turkmenistan hired a suspended doper to help them prepare their World Championships team.

November 15 - Former world record holder Lin Tzu-chi, of Taiwan, is banned for eight years for a second doping offence.

Tamás Aján said he was confident weightlifting would be on the Paris 2024 programme ©Getty Images
Tamás Aján said he was confident weightlifting would be on the Paris 2024 programme ©Getty Images

December 22 - Further retests by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on samples from London 2012 show five weightlifters were positive, including the 105 kilograms gold medallist Oleksiy Torokhtiy of Ukraine, and the 2016 Olympic champion Ruslan Nurudinov of Uzbekistan. Weightlifting positives from the 2008 and 2012 retests now stand at 54.

December 23 - Eight new suspensions are announced by the IWF, including two from Thailand who failed tests at the World Championships. Another, Cristina Iovu, now has the unwanted record of three positives for three different nations - Moldova, Azerbaijan and Romania.

January 22 - Devastating news from further testing of samples taken in Turkmenistan: four more Thais are positive, making a total of six from their World Championships team - and two are Olympic champions, Sopita Tanasan and Sukanya Srisurat.

January 24 - An Indian lifter is cleared to compete despite having tested positive, though how she escaped a ban is yet to be explained.

January 25 - The Albanian Romela Begaj, her nation's flagbearer at London 2012, is banned for eight years for a second doping offence.

If you are a "glass half empty" person that is a damning list.

If, however, you take the "glass half full" view there is plenty of good news behind the headlines.

First, the way those Thais were caught, by carrying out extra tests in Cologne on "targeted athletes" and using "the most sophisticated available technique".

Not only did this lead to the detection of positives, it sent out a message to all those "targeted athletes" - anyone whose performance looks too good to be true, or who competes for a nation with a poor record in doping, for example - that there is no hiding place.

Those 70 barred athletes, and many more who were excluded from other competitions, complained about unfairness of the whereabouts system, but the IWF had sent out countless warnings and their hard-line approach should be welcomed.

Oleksiy Torokhtiy is among a number of lifters to have failed a retrospective drugs test ©Getty Images
Oleksiy Torokhtiy is among a number of lifters to have failed a retrospective drugs test ©Getty Images

Even the London 2012 positives led to a helpful reaction from Torokhtiy, one of weightlifting's most popular figures on social media.

Torokhtiy had "more questions than answers" about his positive but said on Instagram: "I urge all athletes to personally check the anti-doping rules of IWF, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances, and EVERYTHING that is ingested by you, especially your supplements, the ingredients of which are the only factor which you truly can't control."

Weightlifters are likely to listen to him.

During that same three-month period there has also been plenty of encouraging news, from Oceania (more funding for talent identification) to Russia (plans to build five weightlifting centres across the country) to Canada (Christine Girard awarded the medals she won after doping disqualifications at London 2012 and Beijing 2008).

There were some outstanding performances at the World Championships, most notably from Lasha Talakhadze and Tatiana Kashirina in the super-heavyweights, and Eko Irawan, Sohrab Moradi, Simon Martirosyan, Lu Xiaojun and Deng Wei.

The names on a new independent sanctions panel were announced as heavyweight anti-doping experts from Germany, the United States, Canada and New Zealand - a scary line-up for those still willing to risk cheating.

Perhaps most significantly, in November the IWF signed a partnership with the International Testing Agency which will now control key parts of weightlifting's anti-doping programme.

Then there was the level of testing at the World Championships, where 52 per cent of the athletes were asked to provide a sample.

That means the IWF took nearly as many samples at a single event as two other Olympic sports managed across all competitions in a whole year, according to WADA's latest report on anti-doping testing figures.

Performances from the likes of Deng Wei have been among weightlifting's plus points ©Getty Images
Performances from the likes of Deng Wei have been among weightlifting's plus points ©Getty Images

Like weightlifting those two sports, golf and equestrian, both have an Adverse Analytical Finding rate of one per cent or more, yet they took only 389 and 434 tests respectively in 2017, the last year for which figures are available. 

Compare weightlifting - 1.5 per cent detection rate from 10,570 tests, more than half of them out of competition - to boxing and wrestling, and the picture does not look so good for those other sports, which take far fewer samples and have worse detection rates.

Yes, weightlifting has "a massive doping problem", as IOC President Thomas Bach pointed out, and it is compelled to work harder than other sports because its place in the Olympic Games beyond 2020 is under review.

But how does anybody know the true level of doping in boxing and wrestling if they carry out, by comparison, so few tests, especially out of competition?

The next big problem for weightlifting, and it is a very big one, is what to do about the 2019 World Championships.

The date is set, television contracts have been signed, the competition starts in less than nine months, and moving from Thailand to another nation would be a huge legal and logistical challenge.

But what will the IOC think if the IWF's flagship event is hosted by a nation that had six positives at a single competition, and which has had problems in the past?

Suppose it takes until June or July to close those six cases - nothing unusual about that - and Thailand is liable to a four-year ban.

Sopita Tanasan is one of the high profile Thai weightlifters to have failed, putting the country's hosting of the World Championships in doubt ©Getty Images
Sopita Tanasan is one of the high profile Thai weightlifters to have failed, putting the country's hosting of the World Championships in doubt ©Getty Images

Any suspension that late in the year would prevent Thailand being hosts, and the IWF would have nowhere to turn.

Thailand also has contractual problems but the Thai Federation should do the honourable thing and withdraw from hosting the 2019 IWF World Championships, and soon.

The next Executive Board meeting of the IWF is in Las Vegas in March.

If the World Championships are still slated for Thailand by then, and if Thailand is still waiting on case closures that will very likely lead to a lengthy suspension, then weightlifting really will be in a mess.