Sofia in Bulgaria is interested in hosting the European Weightlifting Championships next February ©Getty Images

The 2024 European Weightlifting Championships are moving from Turkey to another nation next February.

The change follows Turkey’s withdrawal as hosts, a decision made to avoid potential doping-related embarrassment for the sport.

Turkey has recently had three athletes provisionally suspended for doping. 

When those cases are closed, Turkey is liable to lose some or all of its quota places for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, for which the European Championships is a qualifying event.

Two nations, Bulgaria and Poland, have already put their names forward as hosts and Armenia - which successfully hosted this year's continental showpiece - is said to be interested too.

The European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) Board met last night and set a deadline of one week for others to submit bids.

The bid from capital city Sofia has "very strong support from the Government", according to Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation President Arif Majed.

"This would be the first ever Olympic qualifying competition in Bulgaria, where weightlifting is a big sport, and the Government has already said it is dedicated to supporting us.

"Hopefully we can attract big crowds for such a prestigious event."

Bulgaria has one of the biggest names in weightlifting in Karlos Nasar ©ITG
Bulgaria has one of the biggest names in weightlifting in Karlos Nasar ©ITG

Turkey’s letter of withdrawal was accepted by the Board, which also voted to follow the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) decision to allow athletes from Belarus to compete as Individual Neutral Athletes.

That decision, a reversal of the EWF’s policy for continental age-group championships in July, could cause complications for Poland, which does not issue visas to Belarussians because of the country’s support for Ukraine in the conflict against Russia.

Bulgaria has not hosted a major weightlifting competition for more than 20 years.

"We cannot take any risks and we need to check the conditions," said EWF President Antonio Conflitti, who will visit Sofia with EWF general secretary Milan Mihajlovic on October 9, the day after the Mediterranean Cup ends in Malta.

Arif Majed, left, said Sofia has
Arif Majed, left, said Sofia has "very strong support from the Government" for hosting the continental event ©Arif Majed

His own nation, Moldova, had been suggested as a possible candidate but will bid instead for the 2025 European Championships.

Bulgaria has a long history in weightlifting and, like Armenia, can fill seats with fans who know and follow the sport.

Its National Federation was "lost in space" during a period of decline, according to Majed, who took control after a long and bitter dispute with former President Nedelcho Kolev.

Majed, a successful businessman whose company owns hotels, duty-free outlets and fast food franchises, said his plans included setting up the training hall at the hotel where the athletes will stay.

Bulgaria has one of the biggest names in weightlifting in Karlos Nasar, who has set world records as a teenager.

Nasar, recovering from an achilles injury, is considered a strong medal contender at 89 kilograms for Paris and should be fit enough to lift by February.