Lu Xiaojun says he has never cheated in his 24-year weightlifting career ©Getty Images

Lu Xiaojun says he has never cheated in his 24-year weightlifting career and will "prove my innocence" after being provisionally suspended for doping.

The triple Olympic champion from China, arguably the biggest name in weightlifting in the 21st century, said the use of prohibited substances "is completely against my values".

Lu, one of only five athletes to have won three Olympic gold medals in weightlifting and the only one to do it this century, tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) out of competition on October 30.

He was informed of the result on Tuesday by the International Testing Agency (ITA), which carries out all anti-doping procedures for the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

While wild conspiracy theories abound online - for example that Lu has been "sacrificed" to help show that weightlifting is serious in its intent to combat doping - Lu and the Chinese Weightlifting Association (CWA) have sent statements to insidethegames today.

Both say they are "shocked" by the positive ample and state their commitment to "zero tolerance" in doping.

The CWA said Chinese weightlifters had been tested 5,000 times in the past five years, the highest rate of testing in the world.

Lu is the first Chinese male lifter to be suspended since 2010.

Lu Xiaojun said in a statement that he wants to "prove my innocence" © Lu Xiaojun
Lu Xiaojun said in a statement that he wants to "prove my innocence" © Lu Xiaojun 

Lu, who started his international career by winning the junior world title in 2004, became the oldest Olympic weightlifting champion of all time when he won the men's 81 kilograms aged 37 in Tokyo last year.

After a lengthy break, he returned to training in August this year, looking considerably lighter, and was planning a return to competition in an attempt to qualify for Paris 2024.

He is provisionally suspended while the case is ongoing - the first weightlifter from China, male or female, to test positive in seven years.

In his statement, Lu said he had learned of the adverse analytical finding in an email from the ITA on December 20.

"I was greatly shocked," he said.

As a senior athlete, he had "always strictly abided" by anti-doping rules.

"I believe that the value of sports lies in fair play and I resolutely oppose the use of any prohibited substance or prohibited method and any other kind of cheating, which is completely against my values, and goes against the anti-doping education I have received.

"In my 24 years of weightlifting I have been tested hundreds of times, without any ADRV (anti-doping rule violation).

"Since my return from retirement in August 2022, I have received a total of eight doping control tests in just four months.

"I love weightlifting very much, and I have won all results clean.

"I have neither any motive nor any reason to use any prohibited substance or prohibited method in the final phase of my beloved weightlifting career.

"I will cooperate with related organisations for investigation, to find out the real cause of this issue, and to prove my innocence."

The CWA was also "greatly shocked" by the positive sample.

Its anti-doping department said in a statement to insidethegames: "The Chinese Weightlifting Association has always pursued the goal of 'Zero Appearance' with the 'Zero Tolerance' attitude in the anti-doping endeavour.

China's Lyu Xiaojun celebrates after winning the men's 81kg weightlifting gold at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
China's Lyu Xiaojun celebrates after winning the men's 81kg weightlifting gold at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

"We have resolutely fought against all kinds of doping in strict accordance with related regulations of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and IWF as well as China's anti-doping laws and regulations.

"We have implemented the strictest anti-doping education and management for Chinese lifters, and they have undergone doping control tests with the highest frequency in the world.

"Since 2017, Chinese lifters have undergone more than 5,000 doping control tests both in-competition and out-of-competition, without any ADRV.

"We reiterate that we will, as always, maintain the cleanliness and purity of weightlifting.

"The use of prohibited substance or prohibited method by athletes seriously breaches sports ethics and the Olympic spirit, endangers sport undertakings and the physical and mental health of athletes, which will never be condoned or tolerated.

"We have noted Lu Xiaojun’s declaration, and we believe that ITA and IWF will find out the facts and make impartial decisions, cracking down on doping while protecting the legitimate rights of clean athletes.

"The CWA is fully aware of the difficulty, complexity and permanency of anti-doping.

"Our goal is highly consistent with that of IWF and other related organisations, that is to resolutely crack down on doping, to protect the rights and interests of clean athletes, and to safeguard the purity of weightlifting and the Olympic movement.

"We will unswervingly continue to work for this!"

Lu is the third weightlifting medallist from Tokyo to have been provisionally suspended for doping this year - all of them after out-of-competition tests.

The others were Igor Son from Kazakhstan, a bronze medallist at 61kg, and Zacarias Bonnat from Dominican Republic, who was second behind Lu at 81kg.