Karlos Nasar, the 18-year-old weightlifting world champion from Bulgaria, will begin his quest to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games under the cloud of criminal charges that could lead to a prison sentence.

Nasar will appear in court after the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships next month to face charges of driving under the influence of drugs, driving without a licence and trying to evade police.

The drugs concerned were amphetamines and methamphetamines.

Cannabis, which was said to have been "for personal use", was also found in the BMW vehicle Nasar was driving.

Nasar declined to give a blood test to police.

Amphetamines are regarded as a "substance of abuse" by the World Anti-Doping Agency rather than performance-enhancing drugs.

Any athlete found to have used them can still be banned for three months, however.

That means that if Nasar had been tested near the time of the alleged offence in July, he could have been provisionally suspended and missed the IWF World Championships, which run from December 5 to 16 in Bogotá, Colombia.

He did not compete last month at the European Junior Championships in Tirana, Albania.

Nasar heads the entries, having posted a total of 400 kilograms, in the 89kg contest that is widely seen as the potential highlight of the 12 days of competition in Colombia.

The maximum sentence he faces in the Bulgarian courts is believed to be up to three years imprisonment but Nasar - who initially denied the offences in the Bulgarian media - has made a full confession of guilt to the authorities and is hoping to escape with a far lesser punishment, such as a hefty fine.

Nedelcho Kolev, who remains President of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation during a protracted dispute over its leadership, said, "Karlos is OK.

"He is training with the team and getting ready for competition in Colombia.

"I can't say that he will be champion but he will go fight for it."

Arif Majed, who was elected President of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation more than 18 months ago by a 24-6 majority but has been unable to take control because of seemingly endless court cases, said, "We all know that teenagers can do crazy things but this is not OK.

"It is very childish, very unprofessional and it shows the lack of control over athletes right now.

"Every person has their own things going on inside their head but when you are a professional athlete you must do better."

Majed said he had spoken to the national team coach, Ivan Ivanov, who told him that the entire team had been tested recently and "there was nothing to fear".

Last week Majed won a court ruling in favour of his election but an appeal will drag everything beyond the IWF World Championships because "the Bulgarian judicial system does not act quickly".

Majed said the Bulgarian Sports Minister had blocked payments to the weightlifting body and had not approved its budget, but had directly paid salaries for athletes and other staff that were four months overdue.

Nasar missed one training camp with the national team but is now in full swing and recently posted a social media video of a 220kg clean and jerk, which is 3kg more than the world record held by the only man to have beaten him in senior competition, the Italian Antonino Pizzolato.

Antonino Pizzolato figures to be one of Karlos Nasar's main rivals in Bogotá  ©Getty Images
Antonino Pizzolato figures to be one of Karlos Nasar's main rivals in Bogotá ©Getty Images

Nasar made a sensational entry to senior competition last year when he claimed one of the triple Olympic champion Lu Xiaojun's world records despite being young enough to compete in youth weightlifting.

At the age of 17, Nasar broke youth, junior and senior world records all at once when he won the 81kg senior world title in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

His clean and jerk of 208kg bettered the senior world record, which had been held by China's Lu, who is 20 years older than Nasar and became weightlifting's oldest Olympic champion when he won in Tokyo at the age of 37.

Nasar set two more junior world records in April this year when he went up to 89kg at the European Championships - but this time he was beaten by Pizzolato, who set two senior world records on his way to a third straight continental title.

The contest in Bogotá at the new Olympic weight category of 89kg is among the strongest and most anticipated of the World Championships, featuring lifters who have moved up or down from lighter and heavier classes.

Nasar’s rivals include the double world record-holder and Tokyo 2020 81kg bronze medallist Pizzolato, the Rio 2016 gold and silver 85kg medallists Kianoush Rostami of Iran and Tian Tao of China, and the Tokyo 96kg silver medallist Keydomar Vallenilla of Venezuela.

Lu will be with the China team in Bogotá but because he has been back in training for less than three months he will not compete there.