History of Olympic Weightlifting
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Time Magazine, Monday, Oct. 03, 1988
Like an opera singer straining for a high note, Mitko Grablev opened his mouth wide, but no sound came out until the 369 1/4-lb. bar he was hoisting reached shoulder level. Then the Bulgarian weight lifter shrieked and raised the bar over his head. When the buzzer sounded, he dropped the bar on the wooden deck and cast a final look of defiance down at the weights before acknowledging the cheering crowd with a wave of his fist. He had won a gold medal.
On each of the first five days of weight-lifting competition, other compact athletes like Grablev walked onto the stage of Seoul's Olympic weight-lifting gymnasium to set world and Olympic records in the five categories. Nearly all these mighty men were from Bulgaria, long a fearsome power in the sport. The most notable exception was Turkey's Naim Suleymanoglu, 21, the "Pocket Hercules," who at 4 ft. 11 in. set three world records in the 132-lb. class and gave his country its first gold medal since 1968. But Suleymanoglu was born in Bulgaria, of Turkish parents, and trained there until his 1986 defection to Turkey.
Bulgaria suffered a further loss when tests showed that Grablev and teammate Angel Guenchev, who won the gold in the 148 1/2-lb. class, had taken furosemide, a banned diuretic. At first Bulgaria attempted to distance itself from the offending lifters by claiming that they had taken the drug without approval in order to lose weight and not to enhance performance. But Gottfried Schodl, president of the International Weightlifting Federation, viewed things differently. Said he: "If you are drunk, it doesn't matter if you drank gin, vodka or Scotch." Both lifters were stripped of their medals by the I.O.C. The disgraced Bulgarians then withdrew their whole weightlifting team, which had shots at five more medals.
With reporting by Steven Holmes/Los Angeles
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