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IWF Press Release – Participation of PRK athletes at the upcoming IWF Grand Prix 

The IWF is aware of comments made by members of the weightlifting community regarding the return to competition of athletes representing the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK). As an International Federation determined to eradicate doping and deliver a fair and clean sport, we fully understand the strength of feeling on this matter and recognise the legitimate concerns of those speaking out.

We would like to remind people of the steps the IWF has taken after receiving entries for PRK athletes to compete in the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba. We immediately consulted ITA (the International Testing Agency and IWF’s partner, independently responsible for all the federation’s anti-doping activities) and our legal team on this matter, and were made aware that the current rules do not allow the IWF to suspend athletes for the failure of their national authorities and their National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) to implement proper framework allowing independent unannounced testing on their territory. Moreover, the establishment of a compliant anti-doping programme in PRK, including granting access to international Doping Control Officers (DCOs) is not within the realm of the IWF’s control.

That is why the IWF had no legal grounds to not accept entries of PRK athletes to its upcoming event. It must be noted that, as per IWF rules, the PRK Weightlifting Federation provided the necessary whereabouts information on its athletes three months before the start of the concerned competition.

We would also like to underline that from 1 January 2024, and upon the recommendation of the ITA, strengthened IWF rules will establish a new system of categorising National Member Federations based on their doping “risk” and will require minimum levels of testing for athletes competing in IWF events, thus working towards an improved level-playing field for all participating lifters.

In the immediate term, the IWF will use the opportunity of the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba to meet with PRK officials and inform them of the seriousness of the situation. At the same time, the IWF will ask for the co-operation of PRK authorities to facilitate the access of independent testing teams in their country.

The IWF notes that the PRK’s NADO has been declared non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency. While the decision of non-compliance does not restrict PRK athletes from competing in sports competitions, nor does it mandate any testing requirement, the IWF will work hand in hand with WADA and the ITA to ensure proper monitoring and testing of PRK athletes, in particular in the lead-up to the 2024 Olympic Games.

If the IWF considers that the level of co-operation of PRK authorities is preventing the correct assessment and testing of their athletes, the participation of a PRK team at the Games will naturally be re-evaluated by the IWF.