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Turkish sports in grip of doping scandals, imported athletes

During the years of AKP rule, Turkey’s sports scene has seen an avalanche of doping scandals and an increase in “imported” athletes.
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ANKARA, Turkey — Weightlifting legend Naim Suleymanoglu, who passed away in November at the age of 50 after a serious illness, was Turkey’s top “imported” athlete who elevated Turkish weightlifting to a world-class status. Born in Bulgaria as a member of the country’s Turkish minority, Suleymanoglu defected to Turkey during the 1986 world weightlifting championships in Melbourne, after which he was naturalized and represented Turkey at international tournaments for years. Nicknamed “The Pocket Hercules,” Suleymanoglu won three consecutive Olympic titles and dozens of gold medals from world and European championships, breaking 46 world records during his career.

Boosted by Suleymanoglu’s success, Turkish weightlifting flourished, producing a generation of champions, both men and women. Among Turkey’s “imported” athletes, Suleymanoglu was a rare role model.

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