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  • Systemic Corruption Uncovered at Weightlifting Fed


    06/04/20

    (ATR) The findings of a new report paint a grim picture of corruption, mismanagement and deception in anti-doping at the International Weightlifting Federation.
    Tamas Ajan is accused of running the IWF like an autocrat. (ATR)

    The report prepared by Canadian attorney and anti-corruption expert Richard McLaren was released today, four months after he was commissioned to investigate the IWF. The hiring of McLaren by the federation followed a documentary by German TV channel ARD in January that raised a host of questions about the federation, long plagued by doping scandals.

    In a teleconference announcing the findings, McLaren says the report found systematic corruption and questionable financial dealings were routine at the IWF. McLaren says the autocratic and dictatorial style of Tamas Ajan, for 20 years president of the federation, made it all possible.

    Ajan was ordered to stand down from his post in January after the allegations in the TV report.

    But McLaren says the Hungarian sports leader remained in charge of staff at the Budapest headquarters, ignoring the order that he step aside to allow interim president Ursula Papandrea to oversee the operations of the Federation.

    Ajan gave up the fight and resigned April 15, clearing the way for Papandrea to take over. But McLaren notes that even with the departure of the long time president who also spent 10 years as an IOC member, the investigators got little cooperation from members of the executive Board or the vice presidents. McLaren says just one of five vice presidents representing the continents agreed to speak with his team. Members of the executive Board were also tightlipped. McLaren says it’s a reflection of the control that Ajan maintained over
    Richard McLaren delivers IWF Report on Zoom
    his colleagues.

    Troubling news from McLaren on the finances of the IWF. McLaren says the federation was “awash in cash”. He says money was collected by Ajan from national governing bodies as payment for fines and other fees levied for doping violations. McLaren says the money, as much as $500,000 at one time, was carried across international boundaries. The report finds that the IWF president maintained hidden bank accounts and that some may have yet to be uncovered in the forensics investigation.

    As much as $10 million, and perhaps more, is unaccounted for by the records available at the federation.

    With more than 600 athletes testing positive in the past few years in weightlifting, McLaren found dozens of cases that were delayed and kept secret. He said up to 40 adverse findings that were held up allowed athletes to compete and win medals at world championships from which they likely should have been banned.

    McLaren, who came to fame four years ago with his initial reports on the doping scandal that’s rocking Russian sport, says now that the responsibility for drug testing in weightlifting has been handed to the new Independent Testing Authority, the incidence of deception in anti-doping for the sport should go away quickly.

    The Hungarian National Anti-Doping Organization, which had been doing a substantial amount of work for the IWF, was absolved of complicity in the shady dealings by the McLaren report.

    McLaren says the question of criminal culpability as well as the accountability of elected officers and staff of the weightlifting Federation is a matter for the IWF and law enforcement to decide. Likewise, for the IOC, although Ajan resigned as an honorary member..

    Ursula Papandrea, interim IWF President (ATR)
    Papandrea, former president of US Weightlifting, held a teleconference about two hours after McLaren unveiled his report. Given that the IWF learned of the contents of the report at the same time as everyone else, Papandrea said she had not had enough time to draw any conclusions about any of the report's specific findings.

    "Obviously, I'm incredibly concerned. We hired the McLaren team specifically because we wanted an independent, external and thorough investigation and it appears that we have received that."

    "Only now that we know what exactly has gone wrong can we take the steps to start to reform our organization in a way that we won't have to ever revisit this position again."

    When asked by Around the Rings if the federation would follow all of the recommendations presented in the McLaren report, Papandrea said that while she has not yet read all of them "any step that can be taken to improve our organization I believe should be implemented without any hesitancy".

    She declined to offer any comment about Ajan's actions as described in the report, but did say "the activities that have been revealed and the behavior that has occurred in the years past is absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal".

    While she is now in charge of the headquarters operation, Papandrea has been restricted from traveling to Budapest since early March due to the coronavirus conditions. Plans are being made to move the headquarters to Lausanne, Switzerland by the end of the year.

    Written by Ed Hula and Gerard Farek

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