Weightlifting federation plagued by corruption and doping cover-ups, investigation finds

Professor Richard McLaren delivers report of an independent investigation sparked by allegations in German TV documentary

By ZK Goh ·

Failed doping tests were covered up by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and over U.S. $10 million in finances are unaccounted for, an investigation into the sport's governing body has found.

Lead investigator Richard McLaren announced Thursday that 40 adverse analytical findings from doping tests - including those of athletes who went on to win medals at world championships - had been hidden in the IWF's records and not acted upon.

The report also found that former president Tamas Aján personally collected doping fines in cash and also withdrew large sums of money from the IWF's bank accounts. "It is absolutely impossible to determine how much of the cash collected or withdrawn was used for legitimate expenses," it said. "The McLaren Independent Investigation Team has determined that $10.4 million USD is unaccounted for."

Aján, who denies any wrongdoing, resigned as IWF president in April. He had served in key roles as the federation's general secretary or president for 44 years.

The International Olympic Committee called the report "deeply disturbing", noting that it has reduced the number of weightlifters taking part at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and only included weightlifting provisionally for Paris 2024.

"The IOC will continue to support the efforts of the IWF and its Interim President to fundamentally reform its governance and management," it added. "Furthermore, the IOC will contact the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to determine whether there are any doping cases concerning the Olympic Games, and will follow up accordingly."

The IWF's interim president, Ursula Papandrea, told a press conference: "We have the honest intent to reform the organisation. I believe that this is a first step in showing and proving that we will make all of the necessary changes, and by the end of the process of reform, I know that this organisation can be an exemplary Olympic sport."

Professor Richard McLaren led the investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation. (Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Images/Reuters)

WADA said in a statement that it "remains in consultation with the McLaren investigators, who have indicated their willingness to provide the Agency with the relevant evidence they have gathered. Once WADA has had the opportunity to review that evidence as well as the report in full, the Agency will consider the next appropriate steps to take."

"Fundamental foundational restoration"

Professor McLaren, a Canadian law professor whose previous work includes a WADA investigation into allegations of Russian state-sponsored doping, was appointed to lead an investigation into the IWF earlier this year after a documentary broadcast on German TV, titled "Lord of the Lifters", alleged financial irregularities and doping cover-ups at the governing body.

The report described Aján's leadership as "autocratic" and "authoritarian", which "resulted in a dysfunctional, ineffective oversight of the organisation".

McLaren's team also found that elections for top positions in the IWF had been "rampant with vote buying".

"Dr Aján abdicated his responsibility of putting in place a functional and transparent anti-doping process and clean up his sport," Professor McLaren told a Zoom conference.

"The IWF is an organisation in need of resuscitation and fundamental foundational restoration."