Report: Russia Helped Armenian Weightlifters Dope At Beijing and London Olympics

Between 2006 and 2012 Armenian weightlifters took performance-enhancing drugs, falsified test samples, and were aided by Russian doping officials in their efforts, according to an explosive report published by the Armenian news website Hetq.

Several Olympic medalists, the head of Armenia’s anti-doping agency (ARMNADO), and the head of neighboring Georgia’s anti-doping agency have all given statements supporting the claims.

How They Tested Negative

The focus here is on the time period from 2006 to 2012, because that was when the Armenian Weightlifting Federation was headed by Samvel Khachatryan. The weightlifters claim that was when the doping began, with one athlete who spoke on the condition of anonymity said,

The buying and selling of drugs began at the time of Samvel Khachatryan. Prior to competitions, some athletes were told to buy the drugs, and the federation supplied it to others.

They didn’t force you to use, but you had no choice. If you didn’t use, someone else would. And he/she would take your place on the team.

Khachatryan, who refused to comment for the article, left his position after the 2012 Olympics. In 2016, Armenian weightlifters were ordered to return their Olympic medals, at which point the head coach of the men’s team Pashik Alaverdyan told reporters, “Athletes from everywhere were using those drugs.”

(The athletes emphasized that Alaverdyan, who was employed after Khachatryan’s reign, wasn’t involved in the sale or distribution of PEDs.)

Beijing silver medalist Tigran V. Martirosyan, who never officially failed a test, told Hetq that Armenian officials would ensure athletes were clean before sending them to competition, and the interviews reveal a complex operation purportedly designed to eliminate the possibility of Armenian weightlifters testing positive for banned substances. According to the report and interviews, athletes were warned ahead of time when they’d be tested, they would perform multiple tests so that only clean samples could be submitted, and the team would store clean samples to be submitted while the athlete was doping.

The Russian Angle

According to the report, between 2011 and 2014, Russia’s anti-doping center RUSADA tested all of the Armenian athletes’ samples. At the time it was run by Grigory Rodchenkov, who famously turned whistleblower in 2016 and played a key part in blowing open the Russian doping scandal. (He starred in last year’s bombshell documentary Icarus.)

According to Pavel Kasradze, the head of Georgia’s anti-doping agency, “If one wanted to falsify the results, you’d have to go to Rodchenkov.”

ARMNADO director Areg Hovhannisyan released a statement saying as much: “They sent [the samples] to Rodchenkov and paid him in cash.”

ARMNADO stopped sending samples to Moscow in 2014 and since then no Armenian weightlifter has tested positive in international competition. The Armenian Weightlifting Federation is currently serving a one-year ban from international weightlifting competition and will be eligible to return to competition in October.

Featured image via @sport_mediamaxam on Instagram.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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