Tamás Aján has given up his role as general secretary and President of the IWF for 90 days pending investigations ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has complained of "bias and a sensationalist style" by makers of a television documentary in a 20-page document that was presented to its Executive Board before Tamás Aján stepped aside as President of the governing body last week.

The document was compiled by the IWF secretariat in the 16 days between the broadcast of the German programme, which made allegations of corruption in the sport, and the extraordinary Executive Board meeting in Doha last Wednesday (January 22).

Aján, the Hungarian who has been at the IWF since 1976 as general secretary and President was the main subject of the documentary.

He has now given up his role for 90 days pending investigations.

The IWF document, seen by insidethegames , claims that more than 20 points made by investigative journalists in Secret Doping – Lord of the Lifters were false.

It was read out page by page before the IWF Executive Board’s discussions began in earnest.

Not all IWF Executive Board members were happy with its content.

"They provided no original documents to support their version of events - it was simply read out by the secretariat," said one IWF Executive Board member.

"If the Germans told so many lies, why is Aján not taking them to court?"

The 13-hour meeting is said to have featured heated arguments and, at one point, angry criticism of legal advice.

There were heated discussions during the 13-hour IWF Executive Board meeting in Doha last week ©IWF
There were heated discussions during the 13-hour IWF Executive Board meeting in Doha last week ©IWF

A team of experts will carry out investigations into claims of financial impropriety and anti-doping corruption and these will be selected by a new commission chaired by the IWF’s Acting President, Ursula Papandrea, who was appointed at the meeting.

The programme, shown on January 5 by the German state broadcaster ARD, was made by the team that first revealed state-sponsored doping in Russian sport.

In their document, the IWF claims the "bias and sensationalist style" became clear early in the programme when the narrator said: "It is likely that he [Aján] will run for President of the International Weightlifting Federation once again."

The document states: "This is false. The fact is that the President already announced at several official meetings that he will not stand for re-election."

Aján's fifth term of office runs until May next year, and by then he will be 82.

There are three pages of details about the collection and testing of samples at the 2015 IWF World Championships in Houston, from which 26 athletes were disqualified for doping.

The ARD programme asserted that the IWF wanted testers from the National Anti-Doping Agency of Hungary (HUNADO), where the IWF is based, and had "sent a letter of protest to minimise US influence".

Meanwhile, the document states that the IWF wrote to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) not to protest but to seek help, because the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had originally declined to be the sample collection authority.

"The IWF was the one who wanted to cooperate with USADA!" the document states.

In the programme Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA, is quoted as saying, "We told the IWF…we are an independent organisation.

"We want to test this event.

"It was way more painful than it needed to be."

Azerbaijan were among several countries fined six-figure fees for doping ©Getty Images
Azerbaijan were among several countries fined six-figure fees for doping ©Getty Images 

On allegations that cash payments for large doping-related fines were made by Member Federations, the document said some countries were unable to make bank transfers in US dollars - or example Iran, Uzbekistan and Ukraine - that cash payments were "legal, common and accepted" and that all payments had been accounted for.

A $500,000 (£385,000/€450,000) fine levied on Azerbaijan for multiple doping offences in 2013 was eventually paid by bank transfer in 2014.

Four of the 20 pages relate to the "missing millions" allegations, concerning two "secret" Swiss bank accounts.

The documentary said, "Until 2009, these accounts and the assets held in them were not mentioned in the IWF balance sheets."

That complaint had been made before by Antonio Urso, an IWF Executive Board member and President of the European Weightlifting Federation.

"It is complicated for us to understand where this money is, who uses this money, and why weightlifting misses this money," Urso told ARD interviewers.

The IWF position was: "No secret accounts ever existed. No money disappeared."

"In accordance with the IWF Constitution in force, the Congress was presented [with] an annual financial report" - and a "complete financial report" went to the Executive Board and auditors.

"The IWF assets - IWF’s Swiss bank accounts - were always known to the Executive Board and the auditors.

"After a constitution change, the assets on the IWF Swiss bank account[s] have been included in the financial reports – sent to MFs [Member Federations] and published."

"We didn’t see any documents concerning the two bank accounts, only justification written in words," Urso said.

"The problem now is the same as it was in 2010."

Italy's European Weightlifting Federation President Antonio Urso, right, had complained about to CAS about alleged secret accounts allegedly known only to Tamás Aján, left, as long ago as 2010 ©IWF
Italy's European Weightlifting Federation President Antonio Urso, right, had complained about to CAS about alleged secret accounts allegedly known only to Tamás Aján, left, as long ago as 2010 ©IWF

That was when Urso took the matter of the Swiss accounts to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear a case.

Another IWF Executive Board member said the allegations concerning these accounts caused lively discussion that "showed just why we need the independent investigation".

The point had been made after the meeting by Papandrea, who said, "That was the theme of the meeting: it is not for us to decide on the Executive Board, we are not a judicial body."

The American said the aim was to provide "a legitimate body with no political leanings, no friends in the IWF, to investigate the allegations in the way they should be investigated and try to protect the reputation of our sport."

On claims of questionable practices in anti-doping, the IWF position was that it had always been WADA-compliant and had undergone three WADA audits, in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

The ARD team interviewed Lidia Valentin, the Spanish lifter who won three Olympic medals, two of them after disqualifications for doping by athletes who finished ahead of her.

"She learns from us that her toughest opponents from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus were seldom tested, if at all," the documentary’s narrator stated.

The IWF document says this is false.

It does not mention Russia but states that Valentin’s rival athletes from Belarus and Kazakhstan had been tested three times in 2012 and a rival from Kazakhstan had been tested more times than her in 2015.

The IWF is concerned about leaks of confidential documents regarding testing of athletes, and states, "Since ARD does not want to give us the documents, we can only assume… that [they] are the Clean Sport Commission Reports and their annexes submitted to the IOC.

"Whoever leaked the documents broke his own oath and the Anti-Doping Policy."

The IWF would authorise the International Testing Agency (ITA) - which now manages IWF anti-doping procedures - "to investigate how and by whom these confidential documents were leaked to the media".

As for the very serious allegations of doping by children in Thailand, made by an Olympic medallist whose conversation was secretly filmed, the IWF said it had “immediately reached out to WADA, IOC and ITA regarding the investigation process”.

The IOC instructed its Disciplinary Commission to investigate any possible anti-doping rule violations.

Because of her extra responsibilities Papandrea, who also chairs the IWF Women’s Commission and is working to promote women’s weightlifting in parts of the world where it does not have a strong presence, has resigned as chair of USA Weightlifting (USAW).

USAW’s grassroots director Jenny Schumacher, a gym owner, coach and registered nurse from Utah, becomes interim chair in place of Papandrea, who was elected in 2016.

After a period dominated by news of the TV documentary and Olympic Games doping violations, the athletes - including super-heavyweight world record holder Lasha Talakhadze and the remarkable young Australian Eileen Cikamatana - are back on stage this week in the first Olympic qualifying tournament of the year, the 2020 Roma World Cup in Ostia, just outside Rome.