The ongoing corruption allegations at the IWF took a dramatic turn this weekend, with the leaking of an email sent by Acting President Ursula Papandrea to the Executive Board, in which she formally proposed that it terminate the office of Tamás Aján.
Papandrea was supposed to be in charge of the IWF while corruption allegations against the IWF and Aján were investigated. Originally, the investigation would have been concluded in April but the terms of reference were extended to June by the IWF Executive Board.
The email was leaked to German broadcaster ARD, which made the documentary that led to the current investigation. In it, Papandrea makes some startling claims. She says that, far from withdrawing from official duties, Aján has continued to exert control over the IWF and has interfered with the investigation in several ways.
The IWF secretariat is based in Hungary, Aján’s home country. While visiting the office there, Papandrea claims that she experienced first-hand examples of Aján’s interference. These apparently ranged from minor issues such as starting a meeting with auditors early in order to exclude her to threatening to have her arrested by Hungarian police in order to force her to leave.
Papandrea also charges Aján with instructing money to be transferred between Swiss and Hungarian bank accounts without her knowledge or consent. This charge is particularly interesting as one of the corruption allegations against Aján is that IWF money was transferred to a Swiss bank account which only he could access.
Papandrea’s email formally invokes article 8.4.3. of the IWF constitution. This lays out the means by which an IWF officer, including the President, can be forcibly removed from office:
By expulsion: Upon proposal of the IWF Executive Board the Congress may decide
to terminate the office of an IWF Officer or if the Congress considers in its sole
discretion that such Officer has neglected or jeopardized the interest ofthe IWF
or acted in any way which the Congress considers as unworthy of the IWF. The
ExecutiveBoard is entitled to suspend such OfficeruntilthenextCongress. If an
Officer is suspended by the Executive Board pursuant to this Article, the President
must cause the inclusion in the agenda of the next Congress the decision regarding
the expulsion of the Officer. The Officer has the right to appeal a decision of
She bases this on several specific charges:
- Continuing to oversee the IWF secretariat when he was supposed to have withdrawn
- Continuing to act as an IWF representative to the IOC when he was supposed to have withdrawn
- Threatening Papandrea with arrest while she was in Hungary
She finishes her email by asking each member of the Executive Board to vote to remove Aján. If a majority is in favour, he will be formally suspended from his role pending ratification by the IWF Congress.
This move by Papandrea moves Aján closer to losing his power in weightlifting. However, he has been around a long time and has seen off challenges to his position in the past. Even if the Executive Board votes to suspend him, it is by no means guaranteed that he will not find support when the issue is debated by the Congress.