Aurimas Didzbalis is one of four weightlifters to have tested positive at last year's World Championships ©Getty Images

Two European champions, a Commonwealth Games champion and a double world gold medallist tested positive at the 2017 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships in Anaheim, California last month.

Two thirds of the 315 athletes in Anaheim were tested and while the four positives are an embarrassment to a sport fighting for its future Olympic status, the number represents a massive improvement on the last World Championships, held in Houston, Texas in 2015.

"These four adverse analytical findings are still four too many," said a statement by the IWF, which reported 24 positives two years ago in Houston, where 40 per cent of the athletes were tested.

"They do demonstrate, however, that the IWF's comprehensive approach to eliminating doping is working well.

"The evident progress since Houston will serve as further motivation to the IWF to continue implementing the toughest anti-doping programme of any international sports federation. 

"The IWF is committed to doing everything it can to address the incidence of doping in sport."

Aurimas Didzbalis, the popular Lithuanian 94 kilogram lifter who is renowned for his on-stage somersaults and colourful uniforms, faces a suspension of at least eight years after testing positive for S-22, a selective androgen receptor modulator.

Commonwealth champion Dimitris Minasidis is another to have failed ©Getty Images
Commonwealth champion Dimitris Minasidis is another to have failed ©Getty Images

Didzbalis, 26, was also positive in 2012, when he was banned for two years. 

He won the European title in 2015, a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games behind Iran's Sohrab Moradi and was second to Moradi in Anaheim.

The other European champion to test positive was Romania's Dumitru Captari, who won in Split last year at 77kg.

Captari, who was third in the snatch at Anaheim but failed to register a total in the clean and jerk, tested positive for the diuretic ephedrine.

He is the third prominent Romanian to have tested positive since the last Olympic Games, after Gabriel Sincraian, whose second offence in Rio cost him an eight-year suspension, and Monica Csengeri, the 2017 European silver medallist at 48kg.

Captari is the ninth Romanian positive since 2014.

The Cypriot Dimitris Minasidis, gold medallist at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at 62kg and tenth in Anaheim, was positive for hormone and metabolic modulators.

Minasidis, 28, was second in the rankings for this year's Commonwealth Games, to be held in Gold Coast, Australia, in April.

The fourth positive was Romela Begaj, the Albanian whose second offence - she was also positive at the 2014 IWF World Championships where, as in Anaheim, she won a snatch gold medal - had extreme consequences when it was revealed by the Albanian press last week.

Begaj's case, the latest in a number of positives in Albania, led to the resignation of the national federation's Executive Board, and the moving of the European Championships from Tirana, where they were due to be held in the last week of March.

Georgia is favourite to take over as host nation. 

The Georgia Federation had a meeting today and will talk to their Sports Ministry on Thursday (January 25) to discuss whether funding can be found for hosting the competition.

Romela Begaj's failure began a chain of events which led to the European Championships being removed from Albania ©Getty Images
Romela Begaj's failure began a chain of events which led to the European Championships being removed from Albania ©Getty Images

The IWF said that 212 tests were carried out in Anaheim, 67 per cent of the competitors.

The sample collection authority was the United States Anti-Doping Authority, and all analyses were carried out at the Los Angeles and Montreal laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

While the World Championships were taking place the IWF presented a report to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on its efforts to combat the doping culture that has blighted the sport.

The IOC has effectively put weightlifting "on probation". 

It is guaranteed a place at Tokyo 2020 and its participation beyond that date will depend on progress in tackling doping.