Introduction to anti-doping

Introduction to anti-doping


The use of doping substances or doping methods to enhance performance is fundamentally wrong and is detrimental to the overall spirit of sport. Drug misuse can be harmful to an Athlete’s health and to other Athletes competing in the sport. It severely damages the integrity, image and value of sport, whether or not the motivation to use drugs is to improve performance.

To achieve integrity and fairness in sport, a commitment to a clean field of play is critical. The IWF seeks to maintain the integrity of weightlifting by running a comprehensive anti-doping program that focuses equally on education/prevention and on testing, with consequent sanctioning of those who break the rules.

Principles and values of clean sport

Anti-doping programs seek to maintain the integrity of sport in terms of respect for rules, other competitors, fair competition, a level playing field, and the value of clean sport to the world.

The spirit of sport is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind. It is the essence of Olympism and is reflected in the values we find in and through sport, including:

  • Health
  • Ethics, fair play and honesty
  • Athletes’ rights as set forth in the Code
  • Excellence in performance
  • Character and Education
  • Fun and joy
  • Teamwork
  • Dedication and commitment
  • Respect for rules and laws
  • Respect for self and other Participants
  • Courage
  • Community and solidarity

The spirit of sport is expressed in how we play true. The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) embodies these values – we believe in a clean and fair field of play, and doping stands in direct contradiction to what weightlifting represents.

Our goal is to empower all weightlifters to stay on top of their game – not just Athletes, but coaches, administrators, medical personnel and all other members of the Athlete entourage. We encourage everyone to take the time to review this section and get informed.

Why is anti-doping important?

Anti-doping rules exist for the same reason the other IWF rules and regulations exist, which is to define different aspects of the sport in order to maintain excitement and to ensure fairness on the field of play. All rules and the fact that they are monitored and reinforced are designed to prevent any participant from taking an unfair advantage over another.

The use of doping substances or methods to enhance performance is not only wrong, but are also harmful to Athletes’ mental and physical health.

What is doping?

According to the World Anti-Doping Code and the IWF Anti-Doping Rules, doping is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs). Most commonly, this means a presence of a prohibited substance in an Athlete’s sample collected during Doping Control.

However, it’s not just a positive test that can result in a sanction. In fact, there are 11 Anti-Doping Rule Violations:

  • Presence of a prohibited substance in an Athlete’s sample
  • Use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method
  • Refusal to submit to sample collection after being notified
  • Failure to file Athlete whereabouts information & missed tests
  • Tampering with any part of the doping control process
  • Possession of a prohibited substance or method
  • Trafficking a prohibited substance or method
  • Administering or attempting to administer a prohibited substance or method to an Athlete
  • Complicity in an ADRV
  • Prohibited association with sanctioned Athlete Support Personnel
  • Discourage or Retaliate other Persons from reporting relevant Anti-Doping information to the authorities.

Who is subject to the anti-doping rules?

The first four Anti-Doping Rule Violations on the above list apply only to Athletes since they refer to the obligation not to take banned substances and the obligation to submit to testing. However, the remaining seven types of ADRVs apply to both the Athletes and the Athlete Support Personnel, such as coaches and team doctors, or anyone else working with the Athlete. National and International Federation administrators, officials and sample collection staff may also be liable for their conduct under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Simply put, everybody involved in weightlifting must respect the World Anti-Doping Code and may be liable for committing an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.

Who governs anti-doping?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the independent international body responsible for harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries. The World Anti-Doping Code (Code) is the core document that harmonizes anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations around the world. The Code is supplemented by 8 International Standards, including the Prohibited List that is updated at least annually. The standards can be found here.

As a Signatory of the World Anti-Doping Code, IWF is responsible for implementing an effective and Code-compliant anti-doping program for the sport of weightlifting.

The IWF has therefore delegated the management of its clean sport activities to the International Testing Agency (ITA), an independent organisation that manages anti-doping programs on behalf of International Federations and Major Event Organisers.

IWF’s anti-doping program is not limited to doping controls, it also includes activities like Risk Assessment, management of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for international-level Athletes, Results Management and Education.

Check out the International Testing Agency’s website to learn more about their services.

Rights and Responsibilities


Athletes, Athlete Support Personnel and other groups who are subject to anti-doping rules all have rights and responsibilities under the World Anti-Doping Code. Part Three of the Code outlines all the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the anti-doping system.

It is especially important that Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel know and understand Code Art. 21 (Additional Roles and Responsibilities of Athletes and Other Persons), particularly Art. 21.1 (Roles and Responsibilities of Athletes), Art. 21.2 (Roles and Responsibilities of Athlete Support Personnel) and Art. 21.3 (Roles and Responsibilities of Other Persons Subject to the Code).

Athletes’ Rights

This section presents a summary of the key Athlete rights. It is important that both Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel know and understand these.

Ensuring that Athletes are aware of their rights and these are respected is vital to the success of clean sport. Athlete rights exist throughout the Code and International Standards and they include:

  • Equality of opportunity
  • Equitable and Fair Testing programs
  • Medical treatment and protection of health rights
  • Right to justice
  • Right to accountability
  • Whistleblower rights
  • Right to education
  • Right to data protection
  • Rights to compensation
  • Protected Persons Rights
  • Rights during a Sample Collection Session
  • Right to B sample analysis
  • Other rights and freedoms not affected
  • Application and standing
  • The Athletes’ Anti-Doping Rights Act sets out these rights and responsibilities.

Athletes’ Responsibilities

It is equally important that Athletes are aware of their anti-doping responsibilities. Athlete Support Personnel should also familiarise themselves with these in order to be able to support their Athletes. These include:

  • Knowing and following IWF Anti-Doping Rules and any other applicable Anti-Doping Rules
  • Taking full responsibility for what you ingest – make sure that no prohibited substance enters your body and that no prohibited methods are used
  • Informing medical personnel of your obligations as an Athlete
  • Cooperating with IWF and other Anti-Doping Organisations (WADA, ITA, NADOs)
  • Being available for sample collection
  • Not working with coaches, trainers, physicians or other Athlete Support Personnel who are ineligible on account of an ADRV, or who have been criminally convicted or disciplined in relation to doping.

Further details of these roles and responsibilities can be found in Code Art. 21.1.

Rights and Responsibilities of Athlete Support Personnel and other groups

Like Athletes, Athlete Support Personnel and other members of IWF also have rights and responsibilities as per the Code. These include:

  • Being knowledgeable of anti-doping policies and rules which are applicable to you or the Athlete(s) you support
  • Using your influence on Athlete values and behaviours to foster anti-doping attitudes
  • Complying with all anti-doping policies and rules which are applicable to you or the Athlete(s) you support
  • Cooperating with the Athlete testing program
  • Disclosing to IWF and their NADO whether you have committed any Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) within the previous ten years
  • Cooperating with anti-doping organisations investigating ADRVs

Further details of these roles and responsibilities can be found in Code Art. 21.2 and 21.3.

Principle of Strict Liability

The principle of strict liability is applies to all Athletes who compete in any sport with an anti-doping program, including weightlifting. It means that each Athlete is strictly liable for the substances found in their urine and/or blood sample collected during doping control, regardless of whether the Athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or method. Therefore, it is really important to remember that it is each and every weightlifters’ ultimate responsibility to know what enters their body.

To protect yourself and your Athletes, make sure you are familiar with the Prohibited List and with the risks associated with supplement use.

Substances and Methods on the Prohibited List

As an Athlete or Athlete support personnel, it is very important that you are familiar with the WADA Prohibited List and know how to check whether the medication you plan to take is prohibited or permitted. Remember that Athletes are solely responsible for what they ingest or use.

The Prohibited list is set by WADA and is updated at least annually. It includes both substances and methods and it is categorized into 3 groups:

  • Substances and methods prohibited at all times
  • Substances and methods prohibited in-competition
  • Substances prohibited in particular sports

A substance or method can be added to the Prohibited List if it meets two of the following three criteria:

  • It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance.
  • Use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the Athlete.
  • Use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport.

The Prohibited List is a comprehensive yet complicated document. Here are a few tips and tricks to help Athletes and Athlete support personnel navigate it:

  • Not everything on the Prohibited List is a medicine
  • Not every prohibited medicine is listed
  • Other substances with similar chemical structure or effect can also be prohibited
  • Only the ingredient names are listed, not brand names
  • Check the route of administration of the medicine
  • Check male or female use
  • Check dose restrictions
  • Many natural products are not specifically listed
  • Regularly check for updates to the Prohibited List

Both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications should be checked against the Prohibited List. Athletes should also inform their doctors of their obligations as high-performance Athletes.


Checking Medication – Risk of Supplements


Checking Medications

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications should be checked against the Prohibited List. Athletes should also inform their doctors and other medical professionals of their obligations as high-performance Athletes and emphasise the fact that they are subject to the rules of the World Anti-Doping Code.

We recommend the use of Global Dro to check all medications. The Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) provides Athletes and Support Personnel with information about the prohibited status of specific medications based on the current World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

Risks of Supplements

Extreme caution is recommended regarding supplement use. A number of positive tests have been attributed to the misuse of supplements, poor labelling or contamination of dietary supplements and there is no guarantee that a supplement is free from prohibited substances.

Risks of supplements include:

  • Manufacturing standards, which are often less strict compared with medicines. These lower standards often lead to supplement contamination with an undeclared prohibited substance;
  • Fake or low-quality products which may contain prohibited substances – and be harmful to health;
  • Mislabelling of supplements with ingredients wrongly listed and prohibited substances not identified on the product label;
  • False claims that a particular supplement is endorsed by Anti-Doping Organisations or that it is “safe for Athletes”. Remember, Anti-Doping Organisations do not certify supplements and the product label may contain misleading messaging.

All Athletes should do a risk-benefit assessment if they are considering the use supplements. The first step of such an assessment is to consider whether a “food-first” approach meets the Athlete’s needs. Whenever possible, such assessment should be done with a support of a certified nutritionist or other qualified professional who is familiar with the global and IWF Anti-Doping Rules.

Checking your supplements

If, after careful consideration, an Athlete chooses to use supplements, they must take the necessary steps to minimise the risks associated with supplements. This includes:

  • Thorough research on the type and dose of the supplement, preferably with the advice of a certified nutritionist or other qualified professional who is familiar with the global and IWF Anti-Doping Rules.
  • Selecting only those supplements that have been “batch-tested” by an independent company. Companies that batch-test supplements include Informed Sport, Certified for Sport or Kölner Liste.

Remember, no supplement is 100% risk-free but Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel can take certain steps to minimise these risks.

For more information, please refer to the WADA Q&A on nutritional supplements.