'A journey of a thousand miles stars with one step' said Confucius. Apparently.

And while China's final gold medal haul may not quite reach a thousand, they're certainly going to win plenty and their 'first step' came today from Chen Xiexia.

The tiny weightlifter went into the women's 48 kg competition carrying the burden of the hopes of a nation and still managed to add to that a combined snatch and clean and jerk of 212 kilogrammes to win by a massive 13 kilos.

Silver went to Turkey's Sibel Ozkan and bronze to Taipei's Chen Wei-Ling.

Chinese Taipei's Chen Wei-Ling

Remarkably, Wei-Ling's total of 196kg was about 25 kg more than she has previously lifted in major competitions - finishing 11th in last year's World Championships, 13th the year before and 11th at the last Olympics.


And there lies the problem.

It's unfortunate for as compelling a spectator sport as weightlifting that collective eyebrows will be raised and suspicious noises made at any performance, which in more innocent days would have brought only admiration.

So, even with all lifters rightly being considered innocent unless proven otherwise, has the legacy of drug abuse ruined weightlifting as a spectator sport?

Or is it sill fascinating to watch - even with that doubt and suspicion?

Andrew Cotter is a BBC reporter and commentator focusing on weightlifting. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 6:18pm on 09 Aug 2008, gmancfc wrote:

    Although there is that stigma surrounding weightlifting, it is still extremely admirable to watch at the Olympics.

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  • 2. At 11:38pm on 09 Aug 2008, cleanlifta wrote:

    I understand that observation by Andrew however it is exactly because of this point of view that I spent much of my time watching the opening ceremony shouting at the TV when the Greek and Bulgarian teams made their entrance in the parade.
    What they have done collectively has in my opinion completely ruined the image of the sport. Weightlifting is my main hobby which I take seriously and now more than ever I find myself justifying the validity of small strength gains I make when the only supplement I use is a protein drink because I work full time and don't have the time to prepare protein filled meals from scratch!!

    The fact that professional weight lifters have and will use and continue to abuse steroids is as certain as the changing of the seasons but it doesn't do much for us poor folks in for the sheer enjoyment of achieving our goals without a little help. Rant over !!

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  • 3. At 01:26am on 10 Aug 2008, Saffavescent wrote:

    I'm no expert on the 'clean and jerk', but when Wei-Ling couldn't complete her lift and her knee started bending the wrong way.... well, I thought we'd have a messy scene like one of those you see on those internet clips.

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  • 4. At 06:51am on 10 Aug 2008, Sabzi2008 wrote:

    "Has it been ruined as a spectator sport?"

    No chance. Olympic weightlifters are the most powerful, lean, agile, explosive, technical, hard-working and mentally-focused athletes and that never fails to leave people in awe. To see such a finely tuned lifter at his or her best is truly awesome, drugs-enhanced or not.

    But the fact that they're the most impressive doesn't mean we should doubt them more than other athletes. The ongoing suspicion over weightlifting is only so prevalent because the feats are so astonishing.

    I'd be very interested to know more about this lifter and her performance yesterday. It's natural to be suspicious when someone increases their total by 25Kgs but it's not unheard of and we have to have confidence in the system.

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  • 5. At 07:44am on 10 Aug 2008, Johnintaiwan wrote:

    I think it best to wait for the judges to 'raise the doubts'. Please Mr. Cotter be very careful about your attempts to curry favour with the Chinese by rumour-mongering against Taiwan. For now, how about observing the good old British legal principle of presumption of innocence? In Tainan people are proud of their hero and hope it stays that way.

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  • 6. At 12:14pm on 10 Aug 2008, gaffergc wrote:

    Who is doing the commentary on BBC?

    Is it this guy writing the blog? If it is his knoweldge of weightlifting is pretty poor. Every time someone fails a lift he blames it on balance.

    LOL - yeah sure that is a majort factor, but on the first lift I just watched in the mens 56kg it had nothing to do with balance the lifter cut his pull short and got caught with the bar in fron of him.

    Give us peace fella. Try learning about the sport and the reason why people miss lifts rather than the negative of illegal steroid abuse.

    There is no doubting that steroid abuse is rife in weightlifting, but until someone has failed a drugs test then lets work on the fact that they are clean.

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  • 7. At 3:47pm on 10 Aug 2008, wulaoshi wrote:

    Drug test will tell you the truth. Otherwise, dont take the progress of a athlete as sort of cheating. Every athlete spends much more time than you commentator can imagine.

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  • 8. At 4:59pm on 10 Aug 2008, GraemePuskas wrote:

    We just have to trust the drug tests to find the cheats. Until that time, we shouldn't be too suspicious, otherwise there is no point in watching at all.

    For example... if you watched Michael Johnson break the 200m world record by 1/3 of a second, you may have been suspicious. Knowing the man and his zero tolerance attitude to drugs, you realise that being suspicious is wrong.

    Weightlifting at any level calls for unnatural ability; that doesn't imply that every good performance is a sign of cheating.

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  • 9. At 4:56pm on 12 Aug 2008, julesseven wrote:

    I used to be a competitive weightlifter and think that the only way to make the sport fair is to legalise drug taking. Unfortunately the greatest beneficiaries of drug taking are the 'power' sports and weightlifting is top of that list.
    When I used to compete there was absolutely no doubt, inside the sport, who was taking anabolic steroids. Generally someone would make it into the top ten naturally and then in a very short space of time they would put on huge amounts of muscle mass go up a weight group and start winning medals. Quite often the improved performance would be accompanied by skin problems and increased aggression and their recovery time after training would far quicker than before.
    I'm not saying that drug taking was any guarantee of success though. To be a champion weightlifter you would also need natural talent and a huge amount of hard work. I am saying though that a talented weightlifter will increase their personal bests by 20-30% through sustained use of steroids, so the motivation to take them is huge.
    Couple this with the fact that most modern steroids completely leave the body after 4-5 its easy to see why drug testing isn't the answer.
    To answer Andrew's final question; yes I still enjoyed competing even though I knew it was impossible for clean lfters to win medals. For most of us it was mostly about beating our own bests rather than winning medals. I also liked watching the cheats as well, they are always very nervous in the big competitions because they have had to come off the drugs temporarily and they are a bit depressed and more prone to make mistakes!

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  • 10. At 5:30pm on 12 Aug 2008, niceEcoRI wrote:

    Please be very careful with your implication on drug abuse regarding to Wei-Ling Chen winning the bronze medal, Mr. Cotter. It is very wrong to make that suggestion in public especially on the reputable BBC website. If anyone of them had used drugs, the test would have shown it by now. You can have your doubts if you don't believe the drug testing results. But, making such as suggestion in public is insulting the athelet!

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  • 11. At 7:00pm on 12 Aug 2008, GoldenLifter wrote:

    Andrew Cotter is a very competent golf commentator. It's a shame no one with a knowledge of weightlifting was assigned to the weightlifting brief.

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  • 12. At 11:29am on 13 Aug 2008, Cantab wrote:

    "It is very wrong to make that suggestion in public especially on the reputable BBC website. "

    I'm ashamed to have defended the BBC in front of all my chinese friends over this year. Quite frankly I have been proven wrong and wrong again. The BBC isn't biased, so many of its "journalists" are just so inadequately equipped to comment, but yet spew out endless garbage.


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  • 13. At 1:39pm on 13 Aug 2008, curtinman wrote:

    I am sure China wouldnt do anything unfair to improve their image . Watching a 69kg woman lift close to 160kg above her head with relative ease smashing the world record and winning by about 30kg - just good training - like the East Germans used to do . only slightly more amazing than a 57kg Woman lifting 130+kg above her head . We are talking women here - wake up ppl .

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  • 14. At 5:41pm on 13 Aug 2008, foscari wrote:

    I heard one of the commentators say that in the syncronized diving this morning that one of the performances was RUBBISH. I would not think in this event that drugs would enhance the performance of the competitors. I would sooner hear the commentator say RUBBISH as some Chines e weightlifter breaks the world record by 30 kilograms. So the only nation in the world that can produce new world record holders in this EVENT are the Chinese?The country that invented FIREWORKS have to cheat on this. Ashamed to present a little girl with the voice of an angel but whose teeth are not quite right,so they fake it.RUBBISH ? This commentator on the diving should be ashamed of himself at least he is covering an "honest" sport.As for your weightlifting commentators,naivety is just being kind to them.

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  • 15. At 5:49pm on 13 Aug 2008, mrireland wrote:

    In my opinion every single medal winner and most othersinvolved in weightlifting are using something.

    Perhaps growth hormone which occurs in the body normally and is hard to detect.

    Wonder if the lifters could maintain the lifts in quarintine with no access to anything other than food and weights etc ?

    Its now impossible to detect and just too many records being broken to not rouse suspician

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  • 16. At 3:14pm on 19 Aug 2008, dognosh wrote:

    Drug abuse in sport is masked in 2 ways, by taking drugs that leave your system before you are tested, and by using drugs that have no test for them(currently).

    If I were to suddenly run 10 seconds for the 100m,with my previous best being 11.5(similar percent improvement as the above wrestler) , I wouldn't be suprised at all the accusations that start flying around me.

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