July 05, 2012 00:00 By Lerpong Amsangiam
The Thai Weightlifting Association (Tawa) remain confident of adding to their Olympic medal haul in the London Games despite a doping verdict which cost them a US$350,000 fine from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).
Tawa president Intarat Yodbangteoy has vowed that his weightlifting squad for London will produce a medal to add to the three golds reaped by female lifters Paweena Thongsuk, Udomporn Polsak and Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon at the Athens and Beijing Games.
However, concerns had earlier arisen that Thai weightlifters might be banned from the Olympics after seven junior weightlifters tested positive in doping tests. Instead, the IWF slapped Tawa with the US$350,000 fine, ordering the first instalment of US$200,000 be paid before July 1 or Thailand would be thrown out of the Olympic weightlifting competition.
Cashstrapped Tawa requested help from the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), who agreed to give the association a loan to cover the first payment. However, SAT made no commitment it would help pay for the entire sum.
“We braved difficulties before, in Beijing, and still emerged with Olympic gold. It’s been another tough time for us and we will get through it. I promise our weightlifters would bring back a medal again,” said Intarat.
Learning from the previous lesson, Intarat has taken steps to ensure his athletes stay dopefree, and said he welcomed World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) officials for inspections at any time.
“WADA visited us recently and everything was okay. Last night a WADA official called me asking for another test. I said there’s no problem. I want to prove that we play by the rules.”
The weightlifting squad have been in training at a camp in Chiang Mai. Five female members – Panida Khamsri, Siriwimol Pramongkol, Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon, Primsiri Sirikaew, Rattikarn Kulnoi – and four men – Attapol Dangjunthuek, Pornchai Lopsri, Jatupoom Chinwong and Pittaya Teebnok – are vying for a place on the sevenmember Olympic team to be named on July 9. The squad arrived in Bangkok yesterday to pay respect at the City Shrine and the Grand Palace.
“We will judge from their results, determination and teamwork,” said Intarat.
Defending 53kg champion Prapavadee and World Championship 58kg bronze medallist Pimsiri Sirikaew are touted as the best medal prospects.
“I’m 85 per cent fit,” said Prapavadee before the trip to Bangkok. “My tired muscles shouldn’t be a problem. … Now I just hope that I will make the final cut, then we set the next goal.’’
A total of 156 male and 104 female weightlifters from 84 countries will vie for medals in the London Olympics.