FORDE, Norway - By Brian Oliver
A weightlifter who won an Olympic medal for Moldova, and then had a positive doping test while competing for Azerbaijan, seized European Championship gold on her first appearance for Romania on Monday.
Cristina Iovu, 23, whose family are of Romanian heritage, was born in Moldova and won bronze for them at the 2012 London Games.
She then switched allegiance to Azerbaijan, a nation that regularly gives passports to potential Olympic medalists from other nations.
The decision backfired for Iovu when she tested positive at the 2013 world championships in Wroclaw, Poland. That year 18 Azerbaijan lifters were sanctioned for doping offences.
Iovu was banned for two years before returning to competition last summer with Romania where she has held citizenship since 2012.
On the second day of competition on Monday, she did not make her first clean and jerk lift until her nine rivals had finished in the 53kg class but took the title ahead of Ukrainian Iulia Paratova who now has two European golds and three silvers since 2011.
In third place was 17-year-old Latvian Rebeka Koha who won the European 17-and-under and 20-and-under crowns last year.
In the men’s 62kg class, Turkey secured a second gold in two days when Hursit Atak made up a 7kg deficit at halfway to win.
Atak, 24, a European bronze medalist five years ago, was fifth after the snatch where he failed with his second and third efforts. But in the clean and jerk that followed, he made three good lifts.
After Sibel Ozkan’s victory in the women’s 48kg on Sunday, Turkey went close to having two men on the podium.
Erol Bilgin, who made the best snatch of 133kg, finished fourth overall.
The silver went to Feliks Khalibekov of Russia and the bronze to Bulgarian Vladimir Urumov.
While most nations at the championship are chasing Olympic qualification points, Bulgaria cannot feature at the Games in August.
Eleven of their competitors tested positive at a training camp in March 2015 and the International Weightlifting Federation has barred them from the Rio de Janiero Games.
Editing by Tony Jimenez