Two Years From 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Here’s What’s Changed In Weightlifting

The date July 24th, 2018 had a significant meaning for the sport of weightlifting. This date marked the point officially two years out from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. A lot has changed in weightlifting since athletes met down in Rio for the 2016 Summer Games.

Many weightlifters are already aware of the competition and anti-doping changes, but we thought it could be useful to put together a quick article covering some of the major differences and turning points that have happened in the sport between 2016 and now.

Additionally, we wanted to celebrate the fact that only two years remain until the world’s best weightlifters meet up once again in hopes of Olympic glory. Below are some of the major changes weightlifting has seen over the last two years.

Anti-Doping Changes

The Initial Push for Anti-Doping Changes

In respects to anti-doping protocol changes, an initial big push could be argued as starting in June 2017. At this time, President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach stated that they’d be creating gender equality at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and would reduce weightlifting’s total athlete count to 196, compared to 260 at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The reduction came as a warning from the IOC about anti-doping issues.

It was also at this time that Bach went on record saying, “All must remain compliant with the Olympic charter and the world anti-doping code. We have a strong signal to weightlifting by reducing the quota for athletes for Tokyo 2020.”

A Big Announcement and Anti-Doping Protocol Changes

In September, the IWF made a major announcement that they’d be upholding the one-year bans that had been given to nine countries for anti-doping violations (3 or more) during the re-analysis process of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. These nine countries included: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. 

Then in mid-late November, the IWF announced that they’d be working with the Clean Sport and Sports Programme Commission and independent advisers to formulate new anti-doping protocols and to update their current policies. Also at this time, the IWF Sport Programme Commission suggested some major changes to competition format and rules that could potentially help limit chances of doping violations. 

Fast forward to late November and early December at the 2017 IWF World Championships, and the new anti-doping protocols were in full effect. At this time, the IWF was testing out their new clean sport methods and hoped to rebuild the IOC’s confidence in the sport. Then in January, the IWF released the anti-doping results from the 2017 IWF World Championships, and they saw a noticeable improvement with their new methods/results.

Where Weightlifting Is At Now With the IOC

Recently, the IOC has given the IWF positive remarks in regards to their clean sport progressions and the direction the sport is heading as a whole, but has left weightlifting on conditional status for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games. This news came after the IOC recently assessed the IWF’s report for their anti-doping protocol changes and results.

Weightlifting Competition Format Changes

New Olympic Qualification System

One of the major changes that’s been made for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics compared to past years is how athletes will qualify for the Games. In January 2018, the IWF announced the new Olympic Qualification System that will require individual athletes to compete six times during the 18-month qualification period for Tokyo to qualify for a spot to the Games.

Additionally, the IWF announced that multiple countries would be losing some of their potential maximal Olympic Games spots due to multiple anti-doping violations between the period of 2008-2020. Check out some of the new rules and countries impacted below,

  • 1 Olympic Spot Maximum = 20+ Anti-Doping Violations: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus
  • 4 Olympic Spots Maximum = 10-19 Anti-Doping Violations: Albania, Bulgaria, India, Iran, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan
  • 4 Men/4 Women Spots Maximum = <10 Anti-Doping Violations

New Olympic Weight Classes

Potentially the biggest change to weightlifting over the last two years was the announcement to change all of the men’s and women’s weight classes. These weight class changes had been in the works for quite some time, and the IWF finally made the official weight class changes announcement in early July.

The new weight classes below will be contested at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and at the 2018 IWF World Championships. Additionally, for USA Weightlifting competitors, you can expect to see these weight classes debut at the American Open 3 Series.

New IWF Weight Classes
New IWF Weight Classes Courtesy IWF.net.

Closing Remarks

As we progress towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, hopefully we continue to see the IOC’s support for the IWF and the sport of weightlifting increase. And while weightlifting is still on conditional status for the 2024 Paris Olympics, it appears the sport is moving in the right direction in regards to meeting the IOC’s initial concerns for maintaining their spot at the Summer Olympic Games.

Feature image from Tokyo Olympics Website & @kioanoush_rostami Instagram page. 

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Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as one of the full time writers and editors at BarBend. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand. As of right now, Jake has published over 1,100 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter. On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and was a writer at the Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office. Jake regularly competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a weightlifting shoe sneaker head. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in Hoboken and New York City.