WADA statement on latest media report about the IWF

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) notes with great concern the content of an article published by the Play the Game website today (12 November 2020), which makes a number of new allegations concerning the former President of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), Tamás Aján. In particular, the article alleges to have uncovered letters from 2013, which WADA saw for the first time today, indicating that Mr. Aján intervened to delay the results management process of adverse analytical findings involving weightlifters from Azerbaijan.

These detailed allegations follow similar ones made by Professor Richard H. McLaren in his report published on 4 June 2020 as a result of his investigation commissioned by IWF leadership, as well as by WADA’s independent Intelligence & Investigations (I&I) Department in the report of its provisional findings published on 22 October 2020.

WADA President Witold Bańka said: “These latest allegations of wrongdoing by the former IWF President are infuriating. According to WADA I&I, which was the first to initiate an investigation, as well as media reports and Prof. McLaren’s findings, there was a culture of doping in weightlifting that was tolerated, facilitated and hidden for a long time. Clearly, this is unacceptable to WADA and all those around the world who care about clean sport. WADA will continue to do all it can to help the athletes of this sport to compete on a level playing field in a safe and healthy environment.”

On 6 August 2020, WADA wrote to the IWF to enquire about what action the IWF was planning to take against Mr. Aján based on the findings of the McLaren investigation. Two weeks ago, as a follow-up to WADA’s 22 October publication of the provisional findings of its I&I Department’s investigation into weightlifting, WADA wrote again to the IWF. WADA will now ask the IWF to take this latest media report into account in its review of the case.

In the meantime, as indicated in WADA’s media release of 22 October, WADA I&I continues its inquiry into weightlifting and is cooperating, upon request, with the various law enforcement agencies that have opened criminal investigations based on its work.

In parallel, as announced on 15 June 2020, WADA continues to be in close contact with the International Testing Agency (ITA), to which the IWF has now delegated the operation of its anti-doping program, to review a number of historical weightlifting cases, including the cases mentioned in this latest media report; and, to monitor the management of pending cases following the information obtained by the McLaren investigation. While WADA has exerted considerable pressure on the IWF over the years to swiftly conduct results management on all Adverse Analytical Findings, without being in possession of all information, there were no indications of improper interference with the IWF results management at the time. Also, there was no legal basis for WADA – which was given investigative powers in 2015 – to have the ability to sanction delays in results management prior to the coming into force of the International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories (ISCCS) on 1 April 2018, which does not apply retroactively.

Lastly, WADA continues to review all available elements from a compliance perspective and to provide regular updates to its independent Compliance Review Committee. The Agency will not hesitate to take action under the ISCCS if allegations of breaches of the World Anti-Doping Code, by the IWF or any other Anti-Doping Organization, translate into evidence and are confirmed to have taken place since the coming into force of the ISCCS on 1 April 2018.