WADA President Witold Bańka said the organisation was "appalled" by the findings of the McLaren report ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has taken the first steps towards investigating dozens of doping positives that were said to have been "covered up" by its disgraced former President, Tamás Aján.

The IWF has passed on evidence to the International Testing Agency (ITA), which has begun an independent investigation into corruption exposed by the McLaren Independent Weightlifting Investigation.

In a statement today, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Witold Bańka said the organisation was "appalled" by the findings of McLaren’s team.

The McLaren report revealed that doping positives had been covered up, athletes who should have been banned won medals at world and continental levels, and suspensions were deliberately delayed by Aján’s "meddling" and interference in the IWF’s anti-doping programme.

Evidence from the report was sent to WADA last week, after which it wrote to the IWF asking for "immediate action on all cases".

That will not be possible as some happened too long ago for any disciplinary action to be taken.

WADA has also asked the McLaren team to share any findings that were not made public in the report, published on June 4.

Those findings, which may require further investigation, were sent in a separate report to the IWF’s Oversight and Integrity Commission, which is chaired by Interim President Ursula Papandrea.

"I welcome WADA’s support for the independent investigations that have already been carried out and that are ongoing, with the aim of uncovering wrongdoing and guiding future reforms," Papandrea said.

WADA has started analysing information from the McLaren team, covering the period from 2009 to 2014, "to see what further action may be warranted in relation to anti-doping matters highlighted by the investigation".

Azerbaijan and Turkey were among the nations that benefited from Aján’s corrupt practices, the McLaren report said.

President Witold Bańka vowed that
President Witold Bańka vowed that "WADA will continue to ensure all cases are properly followed up" ©Getty Images

There were 21 Turkish positives in one testing mission, but no suspensions - and additionally McLaren found "41 hidden cases and 10 possible other cases where the AAFs [adverse analytical findings] have not been followed through."

Of two athletes who tested positive in 2010, believed to be Nurcan Taylan and Sibel Özkan, one won gold medals at World and European Championships, and the other won a World Championship silver, while both should have been suspended.

Taylan and Özkan, who also came up positive in the retesting of samples from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, would have to be pursued swiftly because of the statute of limitations in the WADA Code, which stood at eight years until 2015, when it was increased to 10.

That 10-year limit can be applied retroactively but any of the "hidden" doping violations in McLaren’s report predating 2010 will escape punishment.

Proceedings must begin within 10 years of a doping violation, so cases from 2010 are being prioritised.

McLaren’s report said Aján had, "in his capacity as either General Secretary or President, presided over the many decades of doping scandals that have affected the sport."

The period of 2009 to 2019 was "the worst decade of doping weightlifting has ever experienced".

Evidence from an IWF computer showed that Aján was thanked in a letter from the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, for deliberately delaying doping cases to allow athletes to compete in a prestigious competition in Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, in 2013.

The letter, which had been deleted but was found by McLaren’s forensic investigators, was sent in 2016 by the president of Azerbaijan’s National Olympic Committee, a role Aliyev has held since 1997.

Papandrea said in a statement tonight: "Professor McLaren’s team has been successful in bringing to light a number of cases where it may be possible to establish anti-doping rule violations.

"As WADA knows, the ITA has already received the necessary materials and is already conducting its own investigations, independent of the IWF.

"We are confident they will be thorough and rigorous.

"The IWF also welcomes WADA’s continued support in the development of an anti-doping programme which Professor McLaren has acknowledged would not allow for the problems of the past to occur.

"With the outsourcing of one of the last remaining parts of the IWF’s anti-doping work to the Anti-Doping Division of CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport], a very significant measure of independence has been achieved.

"The principle of independence and external expertise is one that will continue to serve as a basis for the reforms at the IWF that are so clearly still needed."

Nurcan Taylan is believed to be one of the Turkish athletes allowed to win major medals when they should have been suspended ©Getty Images
Nurcan Taylan is believed to be one of the Turkish athletes allowed to win major medals when they should have been suspended ©Getty Images

Bańka had earlier said that "WADA is appalled by the behaviour exposed by the McLaren Investigation Team" and called the revelations "incredibly upsetting for clean athletes, for WADA and for all advocates of clean sport."

WADA is "committed to ensuring that all athletes who are identified as having breached the rules are brought to justice", it said today.

"The Agency has also made a request to the McLaren Investigation Team to share the remainder of the relevant information as described in Professor McLaren’s report… in particular so it can assess whether anything should be done from a compliance perspective.

"In addition, WADA’s independent Intelligence & Investigations Department, which has collaborated with the McLaren team throughout, will continue its own ongoing investigation related to the sport of weightlifting."

WADA said it sent its request to the IWF for "immediate action on all cases, with priority being given to those that are close to the statute of limitations" on June 12.

Bańka added: "As is recognised by the McLaren report, I am confident that recent strengthening of global anti-doping rules, and growing powers being afforded to WADA as the global anti-doping regulator, would ensure that, today, this kind of behaviour could be dealt with as a matter of anti-doping organisation compliance within much shorter timelines.

"Through the new International Standard for Code Compliance by Signatories, which took effect in April 2018, WADA can now address delayed results management as a matter of compliance.

"Cheats must be brought to justice and WADA will continue to ensure all cases are properly followed up by World Anti-Doping Code Signatories.

"This strengthens my resolve to bolster WADA’s financial capacity so that the Agency has the resources it needs to bring cases to CAS directly on a regular basis.

"We want to fully exercise the powers that we now have under anti-doping rules."