DUSSELDORF, Germany (AP) – An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has uncovered doping cover-ups and millions of dollars of missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren said on Thursday.
McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes with delayed or covered cases continued to win medals at world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“We have seen systematic governance failures and corruption at the highest levels of the IWF,” said McLaren.
The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully”, adding that “the content is deeply worrying”.
McLaren said former IWF president Tamas Ajan was “an autocratic leader” who kept the board in ignorance of finances and let officials fear reprisals if they spoke out . Ajan received cash payments on behalf of IWF in the form of doping fines from national federations or sponsors, the report said, but what happened to some of the money is not clear.
McLaren said $ 10.4 million had not been accounted for, based on his team’s analysis of IWF’s cash inflows and outflows over several years.
The most significant fine recorded in the report was $ 500,000 paid by Azerbaijan. It is not known how this payment was made. During a trip to Thailand for a contest and conference, Ajan raised more than $ 440,000 out of 18 cash payments, the report said.
“Everyone has been kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts (and transfers),” said McLaren. “Some money was accounted for, some not. “
McLaren said the investigation had found information in which law enforcement “may be interested” and that he would cooperate with any further investigation. This was taken over by Ajan’s successor at the IWF.
“The activities that have come to light and the behavior that has taken place in recent years are absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal,” said IWF Interim President Ursula Garza Papandrea.
She added that the IWF will pass information on to law enforcement if it says there have been “potential crimes.”
McLaren said that Ajan “allowed the (federal) elections to be bought by polling brokers” while he retained the presidency and promoted favored public servants. Significant cash withdrawals were made before the convention, said McLaren, adding that voters had been bribed and needed to take photos of their ballots to show to brokers.
81-year-old Ajan resigned in April, ending a 20-year reign as president and a total of 44 years in federation positions. A month earlier, he had also renounced his status as an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee.
McLaren’s investigation was launched in January when German broadcaster ARD reported financial irregularities to the federation and concealment of doping.
The investigation focused on the period from 2009 to 2019. McLaren said he heard allegations of misconduct dating back to the 1980s, but chose to prioritize more recent cases with stronger evidence.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has said it welcomes McLaren’s findings.
“Once WADA has had the opportunity to review this evidence and the report in its entirety, the Agency will consider the appropriate next steps to be taken,” he said in a statement.
Certain allegations of doping misconduct at the 2019 world championships in Thailand and involving athletes from Moldova have been forwarded to the International Control Agency, which is still under investigation.
McLaren, a professor of Canadian law, was the WADA’s chief investigator for Russian doping and has tried cases before the Sports Arbitration Court.
The reputation of weightlifting under Ajan had already been affected by dozens of steroid doping cases exposed in new Olympic sample testing since 2008.
There was no immediate response from Ajan to the allegations made in the McLaren report, although he had previously denied any wrongdoing.
Since leaving office in April, the IWF has begun moving its headquarters from Ajan’s home country, Hungary, to the Swiss city of Lausanne, where the International Olympic Committee is based.
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