Investigation alleges doping corruption in weightlifting


GENEVA — A culture of alleged corruption among international weightlifting officials was detailed Thursday in an investigative report of covered-up doping cases.

Three of the sport’s longtime leaders — former International Weightlifting Federation president Tamás Aján, vice president Nicolae Vlad and executive board member Hasan Akkus — were charged with a range of complicity and tampering offenses under the World Anti-Doping Code.

Alleged misconduct for a decade up to 2019, including 146 unresolved doping cases, was laid out in a 50-page document. The investigation was run by the International Testing Agency, which manages anti-doping programs for Olympic sports.

Reasons for the failures to prosecute some doping cases ranged from “chaotic organizational processes” and errors to “outright negligence, complicity, or — at worst — blatant and intentional cover-ups,” ITA investigators wrote.

Aján and Vlad were implicated in allowing a woman from Vlad’s home country Romania whom they knew was implicated in doping offenses to compete and win a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The lifter, Roxana Cocoș, was stripped of her medal years later when re-tests revealed her steroid use.

Vlad was a gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and longtime ally of Aján at the IWF.

Aján was ousted after 20 years as IWF president in the fallout of the allegations first aired by German broadcaster ARD in January 2020.

The ITA report gave “significant credit” to the German program for its “robust investigative journalism.”

The documentary “The Lord of the Lifters” alleged financial and anti-doping misconduct and led to an initial IWF-appointed investigation last year by Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor who uncovered much of the Russian state doping scandal.

Now 82, Aján also resigned his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee last year. He had been a full member for 10 years until 2010 and took part in choosing Olympic host cities, including Beijing, Sochi and Rio de Janeiro.

Vlad continues to be an IWF vice president and an influential figure as the governing body prepares to elect Aján’s successor. Akkus heads weightlifting’s European governing body.

Weightlifting’s place at the 2024 Paris Olympics is at risk with the IOC warning it wants to see reforms and the sport cleaned up.

The ITA investigation also details how weightlifting officials evaded World Anti-Doping Agency scrutiny over several years.

WADA said Thursday it had in the past “limited powers to act against International Federations that engaged in the sort of behavior that is alleged.”

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