Maxim Agapitov has announced his candidacy for President of the International Weightlifting Federation ©EWF

Maxim Agapitov, the Russian who has claimed a court victory over the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and alienated members of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) so far this year, is standing for President of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

Agapitov says Russia has been an example in how to clean up a sport that was "plunged into darkness" by doping during the reign of the former IWF President Tamás Aján, and that others should follow its example.

He advocates an overhaul of the IWF’s anti-doping policies, and believes National Federations should be held responsible for doping by their athletes - but not when they assist in catching cheaters themselves.

Agapitov, 51, said Russian weightlifting had "regained the trust of sponsors" and that the IWF under his leadership would prioritise "the development of the institution of sponsorship, and the popularisation of our sport."

"We propose to scale the successful experience of the Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF)," he said.

"We are ready to share our experience with colleagues around the world."

No candidates for any positions in the IWF elections, due to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on December 20 and 21, have been formally announced while vetting procedures are ongoing.

He said that National Federations had spent years "creating the illusion of anti-doping."

Russia, which has had well-publicised problems in a range of sports, was suspended from weightlifting at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and restricted to two athletes in Tokyo because of dozens of historic doping violations.

In an "anti-doping agenda" sent to insidethegames Agapitov said: "You know about the problems with doping in Russia.

"Unlike other countries, we have been under the scrutiny of the sports community, international organisations and independent journalists all these years.

"We did not waste time creating the illusion of fighting doping - we fought it in reality."

Lawyer Richard McLaren has convincingly testified that Agapitov has an affirmative approach in fighting against doping, according to an unpublished part of a CAS ruling ©Getty Images
Lawyer Richard McLaren has convincingly testified that Agapitov has an affirmative approach in fighting against doping, according to an unpublished part of a CAS ruling ©Getty Images

Since he became President of the RWF in 2016 "no positive samples were found in our athletes at international competitions.

"We managed to carry out anti-doping reform and bring our work to a fundamentally new level.

"The anti-doping efforts of the RWF were highly appreciated by professionals all over the world. The rights of Russian weightlifters were restored in full, including the right to perform unrestricted at international level."

Agapitov said that the IWF should change its approach and empower National Federations to carry out their own tests and "control the situation with doping without fear of sanctions."

He said: "I am sure that the IWF needs to seriously reform the world anti-doping system within its authority."

National Federations attempted to "cover up unflattering facts and positive samples", Agapitov said, because they were always held responsible and punished - through fines and suspensions - when their athletes tested positive, although the fault of the federation could not be established.

Under his plans penalties for doping will remain, and "positive doping results from tests will lead to investigation of the role of athletes’ personnel, possible complicity or even administration.

"Money from penalties should be allocated to strengthen anti-doping work and the number of tests, and for conducting seminars.

"The National Federations will have an additional opportunity to develop the sport. They will be able to raise a ‘clean’ generation of athletes."

Agapitov has been involved in weightlifting for 41 years as an athlete, as managing director of the equipment manufacturer Eleiko’s Russian operation, and in various management roles.

After taking charge of the RWF five years ago he was elected to the IWF Board in 2017. He became the first Russian leader of the EWF when he took on the role of Acting President in June.

In September, Agapitov faced strong opposition from members of the EWF Executive Board, expressed in a vote of no confidence by the members which, he said, was not provided for by the EWF Constitution.

They were unhappy that he used the EWF website to publish a controversial letter, later removed from the site, in which he posed questions about weightlifting officials from the UK and Hungary.

 Members have called for a special election for a new permanent leader of the EWF.

Agapitov says Russia is an example of how to clean up weightlifting after it was
Agapitov says Russia is an example of how to clean up weightlifting after it was "plunged into darkness" by former IWF President Tamás Aján ©Ashbagat 2018

In July Agapitov, who was suspended for two years for a doping offence in the 1990s - he returned from suspension to win a world title - had his Tokyo accreditation revoked by the IOC, along with four other IWF Board members who "did not meet the criteria for accreditation of IWF officials."

Agapitov contested the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where he was supported by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, who exposed widespread doping-related and financial corruption at the IWF in a report published in June 2020.

An unpublished part of the CAS ruling criticised the IOC's decision to base its decision on the historic doping case rather than Agapitov’s recent efforts to improve the governance of weightlifting.

It said Agapitov’s 1993 doping violation "is not even relevant or related to the IWF’s governance problems and its officials' reprehensible conducts towards doping, which have generated the issuance of the IOC’s criteria.

"Quite to the contrary, Prof McLaren, certainly the best positioned person to make any finding in this respect, has convincingly testified that (Agapitov) had an affirmative approach in fighting against doping and in restructuring the governance of the IWF.

"As such, the withdrawal of the applicant’s accreditation does not actually serve the purpose pursued by the IOC."

Agapitov concluded his statement to insidethegames by saying: "Today the world of weightlifting is at a moment of historic decision - to become a clean sport, abandoning doping and corruption forever, or to return to the dark times, where clean athletes have no chance of success.

"From the IWF we expect a new and unambiguous signal of the arrival of the era of clean sport."

Besides Agapitov, who is standing for President, vice-president and Executive Board member in the Tashkent elections, Russia is nominating three other candidates for committees - Alexander Kishkin for technical, Dmitry Chernogorov for coaching and research, and Sergei Serebryakov for medical.

For the IWF World Championships, also in Tashkent, which precede the elections, Russia has named a team of 10 men and is also expected to send a strong women’s team.

Alexei Lovchev, who tested positive for growth hormone at the 2015 IWF World Championships after setting a world record in "winning" the super-heavyweights before later being disqualified, returns to international competition after six years.

Lovchev, 32, ended his suspension shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world and made a total of 424 kilograms in winning the national championship in June.

Other members of Russia’s men’s team are Zulfat Garayev at 67kg, Vyacheslav Yarkin at 81kg, Artem Okulov and Roman Chepik at 89kg, Artur Babayan and Georgy Kuptsov at 96kg, Alexander Kibanov at 102kg, Rodion Bochkov at 109kg and Anthony Savchuk with lovchev in the super-heavyweights.

A training camp in Sochi is due to begin on October 24.