Since the beginning of January, accusations of corruption at the IWF have gone public. This story has, to some extent, been overshadowed by the effects of the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. However, if the accusations are found to be true, this could lead to huge long-term changes for the sport.
Where Has All This come From?
In January 2020, German broadcaster ARD showed a television documentary Secret Doping – Lord of the Lifters. In it, they made several claims of corruption in the IWF related to anti-doping and financial dealings. The documentary singled out IWF President Tamás Aján as being at the centre of the alleged corruption.
Who Is Tamás Aján?
Hungarian Tamás Aján has been at the top of the IWF for nearly half a century. He was Secretary-General from 1975 to 2000 and has been President since then.
Aján has stepped back from his roles as President for ninety days while the claims are investigated. Whatever the result, the IWF has announced that he will not seek re-election when his current term ends.
What are the Claims?
The documentary made the following main claims:
- The IWF has been systematically covering up doping by deliberately not testing certain athletes and preventing positive results from tests
- The IWF has chosen to use the Hungarian Anti-Doping organisation to conduct testing and their testers have accepted money to ensure negative tests
- Tests were manipulated by sending urine from another person for testing (A specific example of Moldovan athletes doing this is given)
- World Champion Lasha Talakhadze was not tested out of competition as he should have been
- In Thailand, athletes as young as thirteen were given banned substances
- The IWF failed to act on positive tests (A specific example of Azerbaijan is given)
- Cash payments were made for anti-doping fines, which may have gone missing from IWF accounts
- IWF money went to two Swiss bank accounts which only Tamás Aján could access and which were not listed in IWF accounts
- Documents were forged and accounts were falsified
These allegations have all been denied by those accused. Notably, the Georgian Weightlifting Federation has published documents that it says show that the claim about Lasha Talakhadze is unfounded.
- 5th January – Secret Doping – Lord of the Lifters broadcast by ARD in Germany
- 6th January – IWF rejects the claims
- 7th January – Thai Weightlifting Federation denies the allegation of doping by Thai athletes, claiming the documentary team tricked Siripuch Gulnoi
- 7th January – Tamás Aján writes to all IWF member federations, denying all charges against him and the IWF
- Georgian Weightlifting Federation denies the allegation that Lasha Talakhadze was not tested out of competition for several years, providing a list of tests from the WADA ADAMS (Anti-Doping Athlete Management System)
- 10th January – IWF Announces that Tamás Aján will not stand for re-election
- 22nd January – Tamás Aján steps aside as IWF President for ninety days. Ursula Papandrea (USA) takes over as Acting President
- 30th January – Entire Thai Weightlifting Federation executive resigns
- 31st January – Richard McLaren appointed to investigate claims
- 2nd March – McLaren investigation announces a system for whistleblowers to pass information about corruption in the IWF
- 3rd March – Tamás Aján resigns as honorary IOC committee member
- 26th March – IWF extends the period of Tamás Aján stepping aside from Presidency
What Will Happen Next?
The investigation headed by Richard McLaren is due to be completed during the period of Tamás Aján withdrawing from the IWF presidency. That has been extended to mid-June.
What happens next will depend on what the investigation finds. We could see the return of Tamás Aján and business as usual or the biggest changes at the top of the IWF for decades.