January 14, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) Russia has suspended its top men's and women's weightlifting coaches after world champion Alexei Lovchev and three other Russian lifters failed drug tests.

Lovchev won the men's heavyweight world title in Houston in November with a world record of 475 kilograms from two lifts, but was suspended on Dec. 24 after testing positive for the banned growth hormone ipamorelin.

Neither men's coach Alexander Venkov nor women's coach Alexander Vidov were included on a list of team staff for the 2016 season published Thursday by the Russian Sports Ministry. Their absence leaves Russia's weightlifting team, one of the world's strongest, leaderless ahead of the Olympics in August.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the R-Sport agency that the two coaches could be reinstated following an investigation into Lovchev's positive test, but ''someone must take responsibility.'' Mutko has previously maintained that Lovchev's positive test was caused by a medication he was taking legally.

Besides Lovchev, his Russian teammates Alexei Kosov, Olga Zubova and Olga Afanasyeva were also suspended on suspicion of steroid use following drug tests conducted at the world championships in the United States.

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