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July 14, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE

The action in weight lifting could be at its most suspenseful in the drug-testing labs, allegations of rampant steriod abuse continuing to plague the sport. At the 1995 World Championships, 62 of 856 male competitors tested were found to have used steriods. If they come clean, Eastern Europeans figure to dominate.

What We Know

The Soviet Union and United Team was tough enough, having won 44 of 126 available gold medals through 1992. Now, at least 10 breakaway republics can field teams stronger than the United States', offsetting American gains in the sport. For example, super-heavyweight Alexander Kurlovich, a gold medalist in 1988 and 1992, now competes for Belarus. His departure allowed the rise of Russian super-heavy Andrei Chermerkin, the current world champion.

What We Don't Know

The number of Americans in Atlanta won't be determined until after a technical conference in Atlanta on Thursday. Five lifters in four divisions have already secured positions: Mark Henry (super-heavyweight), Tim McRae (154 pounds), Bryan Jacob (130 pounds), Wes Barnett and Konstantine Starikovich (238 pounds). The U.S. Weightlifting Federation believes as many as five more Americans will be added after the final conference, filling vacancies left by athletes from other countries who have withdrawn since original rosters were provided.

The five Americans in waiting will be dispatched to Atlanta and get credentials while awaiting final word. Among those in the U.S. waiting room is Tom Gough in the 200-pound division. U.S. coaches say Gough, if he makes it, could surprise with a top-10 finish.

Someone You Should Know

The crowd favorite in the 141-pound division will be Turkey's Naim Suleymanaglu, who is bidding to win gold medals in three consecutive Olympics. But the real action will come with the super-heavyweights, where international intrigue and the usual whiff of scandal linger as former Soviet countrymen Kurlovich and Chermerkin battle for the crown of World's Strongest Man.

At more than 400 pounds, America's Mark Henry will be the largest competitor, but he is not among the favorites. Henry is disillusioned by a sport in which he says steroid use is still prominent.

Something You Should Know

In the event of a tie, the lifter with the lowest body weight wins. Because of the dangerous nature of the sport, the audience is required to keep quiet during lifts. Fans have been known to be ushered out for coughing.

At A Glance

Number of athletes: 240 men.

Changes since Barcelona: Weight classes shifted.

Qualifications: Top 34 nations from the 1995 World Championships qualified three to 10 athletes each, depending on country's final ranking.

Format: Each lifter competes in both the snatch and the clean and jerk events.

Dates: July 20-24, 26-30.

Location: Georgia World Congress Center.

Weight Classes

Events are held in 10 weight classes.

Flyweight: 54 kg (119 lbs.)

Bantamweight: 59 kg (130 lbs.)

Featherweight: 64 kg (141 lbs.)

Lightweight: 70 kg (154 lbs.)

Middleweight: 76 kg (168 lbs.)

Light-Heavyweight: 83 kg (183 lbs.)

Middle-Heavyweight: 91 kg (201 lbs.)

First Heavyweight: 99 kg (218 lbs.)

Heavyweight: 108 kg (238 lbs.)

Super-Heavyweight: 108+ kg (238+ lbs.)


Bar: Seven feet long, one inch thick, weighs 44 lbs.

Collar: One on each end of the bar to hold the plates, each weighs 5.52 lbs. (2.5 kg)

Weights: Plates are color coded by weight.

Chrome: 1.25 kg (2.76 lbs.)

Black: 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs.)

White: 5 kg (11 lbs.)

Green: 10 kg (22 lbs.)

Yellow: 15 kg (33 lbs.)

Blue: 20 kg (44 lbs.)

Red: 25 kg (55.1)

The Moves

Two lifts are contested--the snatch and the clean and jerk. Both require strength, speed and coordination. Each competitor gets three attempts at each event. The best snatch is added to the best clean and jerk for a total weight that determines placing.

The Snatch: This is considered the more difficult lift because it is done in one continuous motion. The litter pulls the bar to chest height, then moves underneath and raises it overhead. There must be no break in the action.

Clean and Jerk: This lift contains two motions, allowing more weight to be lifted. The barbell is lifted to a temporary position at the shoulders (the clean). The bar is then thrust in one continuous motion to an overhead hold with outstretched arms (the jerk).

Sources: AP, Reuters

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