Probe finds corruption, doping cases

Probe finds corruption, doping cases

Ex-boss Ajan ran IWF as 'his own fiefdom'

Toronto: An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) found widespread corruption and dozens of covered-up drugs tests, officials said on Thursday.

Lead investigator Richard McLaren said the probe into the IWF's affairs under former president Tamas Ajan uncovered millions of dollars in missing money and 40 positive doping cases that had been hushed up.

McLaren's report accused Ajan of an "autocratic, authoritarian" leadership style which had resulted in "dysfunctional, ineffective" oversight of the sport's governing body.

The report said Ajan had used a "tyranny of cash" to control the IWF during his decades-long reign, with the Hungarian boss directly pocketing doping fines and regularly withdrawing large sums from the organisation's coffers which remained unaccounted for.

"It is absolutely impossible to determine how much of the cash collected or withdrawn was used for legitimate expenses," an executive summary of the investigation reported.

A total of US$10.4 million remained missing, the report said.

"Everyone was kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts," McLaren said. "Some cash was accounted for, some was not."

McLaren, who was also the lead investigator in the Russian drugs scandal in 2015, said the probe had also found 40 positive drugs cases buried in IWF records.

"This includes gold and silver medallists who have not had their samples dealt with," the report said.

"This information has been passed on to Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] for further investigation," it added citing a "culture of doping" that existed within weightlifting.

The Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (Tawa) has been suspended from taking part in international events, including next year's Olympics, after a number of its athletes tested positive for banned substances at the 2018 world championships.

Among them are 2016 Rio Olympic champions Sukanya Srisurat and Sopita Tanasan.

Tawa is appealing against the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Meanwhile, in addition to financial and doping irregularities, the McLaren report also uncovered corruption in the IWF's appointments process.

"The two most recent electoral congresses were rampant with vote buying for the president and senior level positions of the executive board," the report said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) described the findings of the McLaren investigation as "deeply concerning."

"The IOC will continue to support the efforts of the IWF and its interim president to fundamentally reform its governance and management," said an IOC statement.

Ajan stepped down as chief of the IWF in April following allegations of corruption made in the documentary Lord of the Lifters broadcast by German outlet ARD earlier this year.

The documentary alleged a "culture of corruption" had been established in the Olympic sport with prominent weightlifters rarely subjected to drugs tests and cash being taken by doping controllers to accept manipulated urine samples.

In the documentary, Thailand's 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Rattikan (now Siripuch) Gulnoi admitted to using steroids when she was young.

Following the allegations, the entire Tawa board, led by its president Boossaba Yodbangtoey, resigned.

Prachya Keeratinan was elected unopposed as Tawa president to succeed Boossaba in March.

Ajan, 81, who had been at the IWF since 1976 serving 24 years as general secretary and the past 20 as president, denied the allegations.

However, the McLaren report published on Thursday painted a scathing portrait of Ajan's reign, saying the Hungarian official had honed his "authoritarian management techniques" during the Cold War era when Eastern Bloc countries dominated weightlifting.

The report said Ajan had retained a firm grip on the sport's member federations through "patronage, reward and punishment."

"Ajan ran the IWF as if it was his own personal fiefdom or private company over which he had absolute control," the report said, noting that he controlled all withdrawals and deposits into the federation's main bank account. afp/bangkok post

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