IWF vows to act after WADA probe turns up further doping violations
The International Weightlifting Federation has described as “shocking” new allegations of doping misconduct, including doppelgangers providing samples, laid out in a World Anti-Doping Agency report, and pledged to address the issue in collaboration with the International Testing Agency, which is now responsible for the governing body’s procedures in the area.
The IWF has been embroiled in a doping and corruption scandal, and is on its fourth president of the year, with Michael Irani of Great Britain having taken the helm, on an interim basis, last week.
The federation is now facing further bad publicity after a three-year probe by WADA’s independent Intelligence & Investigations (I&I) department uncovered evidence of urine substitution involving 18 weightlifters from six countries.
The investigation is continuing, but, in provisional findings published yesterday it was claimed that doppelgangers had been used to impersonate athletes during the sample collection process, enabling clean urine to be fraudulently provided.
The cases will be presented to the independent ITA, which, the IWF has confirmed, will continue to manage the federation’s anti-doping programme until 2024.
The WADA I&I probe also looked into claims that a high-ranking member of the IWF was paid to promote Russian interests and to protect the country’s athletes from detection, allegations of an organised doping and protection scheme in Romanian weightlifting and the process of collection, collation and assessment of weightlifting intelligence.
Irani insisted the IWF is getting its house in order, and will act upon the findings, saying on Thursday: “Clean weightlifters can rest assured that our sport now benefits from a world-class, independently administered anti-doping programme which will continue well into the future.”
He added: “The provisional outcomes of WADA’s investigation into doping within weightlifting make for shocking reading. The IWF is firmly committed to empowering the ITA with the resources necessary for followup of any intelligence provided to it by WADA.
“The IWF is determined to ensure a level playing field for the clean weightlifters, coaches and officials acknowledged by WADA. We will continue to take the necessary steps to deliver this level playing field, relying on the independent advice of WADA, the ITA and the IWF’s newly-formed independent anti-doping commission.”
WADA president Witold Banka said: “WADA is appalled by what its Intelligence and Investigations Department has uncovered in this investigation. For too long, clean weightlifters have had to deal with an entrenched culture of doping in their sport, where the promotion of fear ensured that the truth remained hidden and that those who wanted to do the right thing were isolated.
“Once again this has shown the importance of whistleblower information and the positive difference that can be made when people with information have the courage to come forward. Intelligence from well-placed confidential sources, coupled with the diligent work of WADA Intelligence and Investigations, is
delivering significant results across a host of investigations.
“WADA will continue to do all it can to help provide clean weightlifters with a safe and healthy environment for their sport. To do that more effectively in general, I believe this report shows clearly that it is time to start a discussion as to whether WADA should be granted additional powers of investigation, including unfettered access to all relevant internal documents and servers within the organisation under investigation.”
The International Olympic Committee warned after an executive board meeting this month that weightlifting’s place on the programme of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is under threat as a result of the recent scandals, which centred on former long-term president Tamas Ajan.
Hungarian Ajan stepped down
from the IWF in April after 20 years as president (he was general secretary for
the previous 24), and came in for heavy criticism in an independent report
commissioned by the federation, produced by Canadian law professor Richard
McLaren, and published in June.
It stated that 40 positive doping tests from athletes were covered up and that $10.4 million in IWF income was unaccounted for during his presidency.
Irani succeeded Thailand’s Intarat Yodbangtoey who stepped down as interim IWF president a matter of days after replacing the ousted Ursula Papandrea of USA.
There had been considerable criticism within and outside the weightlifting fraternity over the latter move, with the IOC saying it was “very worried” about the decision, the way it was taken and the chosen replacement. Thailand is one of three countries banned from next year’s delayed Tokyo Olympics because of its doping record.
Papandrea has been pushing reform at the IWF since replacing Ajan earlier this year, but was removed by the board at a virtual meeting in which she took no part.
Irani, already chair of the IWF medical committee and former chair of the anti-doping commission, has stressed that the federation will continue with the reform process, with elections for a new president and other senior positions due in March of next year.
However, the IOC issued a new statement today which read: "The IOC has established contact with the new interim President of the IWF, Dr Michael Irani. Following its own decision on 7 October 2020, the IOC EB remains highly concerned about the confusing decisions taken by the IWF Board in the last few days, particularly as regards the chosen replacements as Acting President, as well as the global governance of the International Federation.
"At this stage it is too early to make any recommendation in follow-up to its decision from 7 October 2020, but the ongoing actions of the IWF will be closely monitored. The IOC will also study the latest World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report on the IWF. In the meantime, the IOC will follow up on the required actions as identified in the last IOC EB meeting."