Two Vietnamese weightlifters with a good chance of winning medals at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are likely to miss their chance because of multiple doping violations by their teammates.
The International Testing Agency (ITA) has announced that it has asked an independent panel to impose sanctions on Vietnam because it has had four doping cases, all for steroids, during the Olympic qualifying period.
Thailand, Egypt and Malaysia are already banned from weightlifting in Tokyo, and Romania, Colombia and Vietnam could join them, some for having multiple violations within a year, others for the same offence during the Olympic qualifying period.
The process moves slowly, however, and if the deliberations over Vietnam take as long as they have done with Romania, the Vietnamese pair - Kim Tuan Thach in the men’s 61 kilograms and Thi Duyen Hoang in the women’s 59kg - might be clear to compete.
In February the ITA referred Romania to the same body - the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel (IMFSP) - but there has been no result yet three months later.
Weightlifting at Tokyo 2020 is scheduled to start on July 24, less than two months from now.
The case against the Weightlifting Federation of Vietnam concerns two women, Thi Phuong Thahn Nguyen and Thi Thu Trang Nguyen, and two men, Van Vinh Trinh and Dinh Sang Bui.
"All four athletes tested positive for prohibited steroids and were respectively sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of four years," said an ITA statement.
"Given that the case is underway, the ITA will not comment further during the ongoing proceedings."
The ITA is also unable to comment on the ongoing proceedings against Romania and Colombia, although a decision on Romania is expected soon.
When the ITA announced that the sanctions panel had been called upon to deliberate on Romania in February, it said the case was grounded on five doping violations for steroids in 2012 by five different athletes.
They were the entire team of four at London 2012 - Florin Croitoru, Gabriel Sincraian, Razvan Martin and Roxana Cocos - plus Marius Danciu, who was suspended at the time of the Olympics.
All four from London 2012 were not reported until 2019, after retests overseen by the IOC.
"According to the IWF Anti-Doping Rules (Article 12), Member Federations can be suspended, fined and/or have other rights withdrawn," said an ITA statement at the time.
Since London 2012, Romanian weightlifters have been suspended or provisionally suspended, awaiting closure, 17 times for doping offences, including one for sample swapping.
Colombia is contesting decisions made against three athletes who, its federation believes, unknowingly ingested boldenone through eating tainted beef.