Tamas Ajan: International Weightlifting Federation president 'corrupt at highest level', independent report finds

Former International Weightlifting Federation Tamas Ajan
Tamas Ajan joined the International Weightlifting Federation in 1976 and has served as president for the last 20 years

An independent report has found "corruption at the highest level" in international weightlifting.

It said former International Weightlifting Federation president Tamas Ajan, 81, operated a "culture of fear".

Investigator, law professor Richard McLaren, said Hungarian Ajan interfered in anti-doping efforts and oversaw financial mismanagement in his pursuit of "absolute control".

Ajan resigned from his role in April.

The investigation into the IWF began in February, following a documentary by German state broadcaster ARD called Secret Doping - Lord of the Lifters, which featured alleged corruption within the sport.

Among the findings, it concluded that:

  • Ajan personally collected all the doping violation fines
  • There is an estimated 10.5 million dollars from IWF accounts that are unaccounted for.
  • 40 positive tests, including two athletes who won world championship gold and silver medals, were covered up.

McLaren, who is from Canada, also led the investigation into the Russian doping scandal, which resulted in a four-year ban from all major sport for the country.

He served 24 years as the IWF general secretary and 20 as president, joining the organisation in 1976.

"I found an organisation that had been subject for close to half a century to an autocratic leader, who dictated through various control mechanisms everything that occurred within the organisation," said McLaren in a Zoom conference.

"His (Ajan's) obsession with control made it a culture of fear that prevented a vibrant and robust sports administration.

"We found systemic government failures and corruption at the highest level of the IWF."

In a statement, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said it "welcomes the work that has been carried out" by McLaren.

"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," it added.

'Staggering detail' - Analysis

Alex Capstick, BBC Sport

Professor Richard McLaren knows a thing or two about sport's ugly secrets. It was his investigation that laid bare the extent of the Russian doping conspiracy. That inquiry followed allegations made by the German broadcaster ARD and it was the same network that uncovered the grisly specifics of the institutionalised corruption that has afflicted weightlifting for years.

The report is filled with staggering detail of what is described as his obsessive control of the organisation. He ruled by intimidation, which might explain why so few members of the leadership group were prepared to assist in the investigation.

Even when suspended, shortly after the inquiry started, Ajan was still running the show. As McLaren's team arrived at the Federation's headquarters in Budapest there he was, in charge, with nobody daring to say otherwise.

Ajan's grip was eventually loosened and now he is gone with millions of dollars unaccounted for. He has left behind what has been described as a Federation in need of "resuscitation and restoration". The new leadership has vowed to make the necessary reforms but criminal proceedings have not been ruled out. The IOC says it is deeply concerned and Wada is looking into the anti-doping elements of the report. This is not over.

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