Russian sports minister Vitali Mutko on Friday threw his support behind world champion weightlifter Aleksey Lovchev who has been banned for suspected doping in the latest controversy to hit the country's sports authorities. (Olympians Association Opposes Blanket Ban on All Russian Athletes)
Lovchev, 26, who won gold in the +105kg category at the world championships in Houston last month, tested positive for the banned growth hormone Ipamorelin. (Russia Accept "Full" Doping Ban)
He claims he had permission to use a medicine to ease pain from a knee injury he was suffering at the time of the tournament where he broke the clean-and-jerk and total world records. (Australia and United Kingdom Back Russian Olympic Ban Over Doping)
"We are going to give him all the support necessary since he has not been officially found guilty of doping and no decision has been taken," Mutko told a news conference.
On Thursday, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) said that traces of Ipamorelin had been found in Lovchev's 'A' sample.
As this constituted a "violation of anti-doping regulations", he was provisionally suspended, the IWF said in a statement.
Mutko said that Lovchev suffered ruptured knee ligaments a month before the world championships and had authorisation to use a medicine to treat the injury.
Lovchev said he was innocent, telling Russian television station Match he was in a state of "absolute shock".
Friday's revelations came hot on the heels of Russian track and field competitors being banned after their athletics federation was accused of state-sponsored doping.
The Russian anti-doping authority and Moscow's anti-doping laboratory were also suspended.