Top international weightlifting officials charged after ITA probe

SYDNEY, June 24 (Reuters) – Hungarian Tamas Ajan, the former head of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), has been charged with “complicity and tampering” in regard to doping offences after a probe by the International Testing Agency (ITA).

Current IWF vice-president Nicu Vlad, who also heads the Romanian federation, has been charged with the same offences, while the head of the European confederation, Turk Hassan Akkus, has been charged only with “tampering, said the ITA.

The ITA, an independent organisation which implements anti-doping programmes for international federations, has taken over the IWF doping programme in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

The charges, detailed on Thursday in an ITA report triggered by a whistleblowing TV documentary broadcast by Germany’s ARD last year, relate to nearly 150 “unresolved” doping cases in the period 2009-2019.

“The ITA was hampered by the depth and breadth of the IWF’s past years of inaction, which resulted into 29 unsanctioned doping violations being impossible to prosecute due to statute of limitation and/or destruction of evidence,” the ITA said.

“The reasons why these cases were unprocessed and/or unsanctioned, ranged from mere administrative oversight, poor record keeping, chaotic organisational processes, or jurisdictional errors – on one end of the spectrum – to indifference, outright negligence, complicity, or – at worst – blatant and intentional cover-ups.”

The IWF, stressing that it viewed the issues as “historical”, said it was “fully committed” to implementing sanctions levelled against former or current officials by the ITA.

“I am appalled by what is asserted to have been a complete betrayal of weightlifting and weightlifters by those who had been entrusted with the sport’s leadership,” said IWF President Dr. Michael Irani.

“To all those athletes who were cheated of the opportunity to compete fairly, I would like to offer the IWF’s unreserved apology.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency, which cooperated with the ITA in the inquiry, welcomed the publication of the report.

“WADA is very disturbed by what has been revealed and will continue to work in close collaboration with the ITA and others, including law enforcement, to help reveal the full extent of the truth that was hidden for many years,” said WADA President Witold Banka.

Romania, Thailand and Malaysia have been barred from the Tokyo Olympics weightlifting competition because of repeated doping infractions.

In 2017, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned that weightlifting had to reform its anti-doping procedures or risk missing out on the 2024 Paris Games.

Ajan stood down after 20 years as IWF president last year, initially to allow an investigation to be conducted by Richard McLaren, which exposed the cover-up of doping offences, rigged elections and the disappearance of millions of dollars.

Ajan denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford

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