Weightlifting-Olympic champion Lyu suspended after positive doping test

(Reuters) -China’s three-times Olympic champion Lyu Xiaojun has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance, the International Testing Agency (ITA) said on Thursday.

Lyu returned the positive sample during an out-of-competition test on Oct. 30, said the ITA, which oversees the bulk of the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) anti-doping programme.

Lyu, who became the oldest man to win Olympic gold in weightlifting when he claimed the 81kg title in Tokyo last year, tested positive for erythropoietin, a prohibited peptide hormone.

The 38-year-old Lyu said that he was greatly shocked by the result.

“I have neither any motive nor any reason to use any prohibited substance or prohibited method in the final phase of my beloved weightlifting career,” Lyu said in a statement to Reuters.

“I will cooperate with related organizations for investigation, to find out the real cause of this issue, and to prove my innocence.”

Lyu won gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in the 77kg category.

“We have noticed Lyu Xiaojun’s Declaration, and we believe that ITA and IWF will find out the facts and make impartial decisions, cracking down on doping while protecting the legitimate rights of clean athletes,” The Chinese Weightlifting Association added.

A number of doping cases have been uncovered in the sport in recent years and in June former international weightlifting heads Tamas Ajan and Nicu Vlad were banned for life for covering up doping offences.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, additional reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)