The top two coaches in Egypt’s national weightlifting team have been sent to jail during a Government inquiry into widespread doping and misappropriation of public funds.
A number of elite weightlifters complained to the Ministry of Sport that technical director Mohamed Moussa and national coach Mohamed Hosni had been involved in the supply of illegal performance-enhancing drugs to team members.
The coaches are facing charges of embezzlement, wasting public money and forging official documents, according to news reports in Cairo, and have been accused by athletes of forging their signatures.
Moussa and Hosni were first sent to jail for four days on Sunday (December 29).
The Public Prosecutor has since ordered that they be detained for a further 15 days while the inquiry continues.
Mahmoud Magoub, President of the Egyptian Weightlifting Federation (EWF), who sits on the Executive Board of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), had been cleared of involvement in fraud but was still "subject to investigation" in the wide-ranging inquiry, reports said.
Magoub did not reply to messages sent by insidethegames.
Egypt is banned from international weightlifting for two-years because of multiple doping violations, many of them involving teenagers, and cannot compete at this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The EWF - which also lost hosting rights to the 2020 IWF Junior World Championships - has been suspended by Egypt’s National Olympic Committee while the inquiry, led by Minister of Sport Ashraf Sobhi, in ongoing.
Shaimaa Khalaf, one of Egypt’s top female lifters and who was fourth in the women’s super-heavyweights at Rio 2016, alleged anabolic steroids were sold openly to team members "in full view of everyone".
Khalaf, 28, revealed she had complained to the Sports Minister more than once about the prevalence of doping in the team "but he did nothing".
Weightlifters had been given nutritional supplements that contained steroids over a period of three-years, Khalaf said.
She complained of a lack of medical advice and blamed Moussa for the nation’s exclusion from Tokyo 2020, claiming that 23 lifters had tested positive but "their names have not been announced".
That number is 10 more than the known number of violations announced by the IWF in the past three years, though it may include athletes who tested positive at national level and are not within the the world governing body's jurisdiction.
Seven young Egyptians tested positive at a training camp before the African Youth and Junior Championships in Cairo in December 2016, though most of the names have never been made public because they were minors.
Two of them were 14-year-old girls.
Six more doping violations at last year’s All-Africa Games in Rabat in Morocco in August, were reported to the IWF in October by Games organisers.
Among them was Sarah Ahmed, who, at Rio 2016, became the first female weightlifter from the Arab world to stand on the podium, having won bronze in the 69 kilograms.
Mohamed Ehab, the 30-year-old who also won bronze for Egypt at Rio 2016, announced his retirement after Egypt was banned by the IWF in September.
When the inquiry is over and Egypt’s weightlifters prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Ehab could play a leading role, having been asked by Sports Minister Sobhi to become a technical supervisor.
Ehab admitted many junior lifters in Egypt were "ignorant" about doping and said increased awareness was essential.
The scandal of doping and alleged financial crimes within the EWF has been making headlines all this week in Egypt, and has been discussed in Parliament.
Caroline Maher, a former international taekwondo player and now Egypt’s youngest Member of Parliament, warned the weightlifting scandal was "a catastrophe that requires urgent action to prevent its recurrence".
Weightlifting has brought Egypt more Olympic success than any other sport, with 14 medals - twice as many as wrestling, the second most successful.