9th January 2020

Pressure builds on IWF as corruption claims are corroborated

Weightlifting officials have corroborated allegations that millions of dollars of International Olympic Committee (IOC) revenue allocated to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) remains unaccounted for. It also appears that the IWF may have violated its own Constitution and Bylaws by failing to investigate the corruption allegations, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the IOC couldn’t intervene.

In 2011, former IOC President Jacques Rogge declined to refer the issue to the IOC Ethics Commission, which didn’t examine the case. The reason given was that the IOC couldn’t interfere in the autonomy of the international federation. As such, the issue of the missing millions remains unresolved, despite the IWF’s assertions to the contrary.

Four weightlifting officials from four different countries told journalists that the missing money – conservatively estimated at US$5.5 million – remains unaccounted for. They are Italy’s Antonio Urso, a member of the IWF Executive Board; San Marino’s Marino Casadei, a former General Secretary of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF); Germany’s Christian Baumgartner; and Michael Cayton of USA Weightlifting. 

On 10 June 2011, Urso and Casadei filed an appeal against the IOC’s refusal to refer a complaint about the IWF’s mismanagement of funding to its Ethics Commission. The CAS rejected the appeal because it found it did not have jurisdiction to hear the dispute because under the Olympic Charter, only Olympic Bodies can inform the IOC President of breaches of its Code of Ethics. 

Stupp’s 20 May 2011 letter…

A 20 May 2011 letter from former IOC Legal Director Howard Stupp is included in the CAS Decision (PDF below). It reveals that the IOC conduced a ‘serious analysis’ after receiving a file containing the financial mismanagement allegations, and determined that the matter should be dealt with by the IWF internally. ‘Consequently, the IOC, respecting the IF’s [international federation’s] autonomy, will not intervene in this debate’, writes Stupp.

But as corroborated by the four weightlifting officials, the matter was not dealt with by the IWF. This could constitute a violation of the IWF’s own Constitution and Bylaws. Under Article 2.1.2(h), the IWF pledges to ‘fight against corruption, bribery and manipulation of competitions; in accordance with the “Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions” and the IWF Code of Ethics’. Article 2.2.2(d) of its Code of Ethics (contained within its Constitution and Bylaws) states that ‘corruption’ shall be considered an offence.

‘The [2011 CAS] ruling said: “As a consequence, the Panel concludes that there is no link, in the sense of Rule 61.2 of the Olympic Charter, between the Olympic Games and the internal accounts of an International Federation”’, read a statement from the IOC. ‘Therefore, the IOC had to close the case in 2012. Given the change in the IOC Code of Ethics since then and the fact that the television programme may contain new information, the IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer will ask ARD for all the documentation in its possession in order to properly address it.’ 

It would therefore appear that despite the IWF’s assertions to the contrary, the IOC also doesn’t consider the case closed. It is likely to ask the IWF why it didn’t follow the corruption allegations up, as required by the IWF Constitution and Bylaws.

OOC testing

Journalists reiterated that Lasha Talakhadze was not tested out of competition by the IWF in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016. The Georgian, who served a two year ban after testing positive for stanozolol in 2013, was taken out of the IWF’s International Registered Testing Pool (IRTP) whilst serving his ban in 2014 and 2015. However, he was included in the 2013 and 2016 IRTP, so should have been tested by the IWF in those years.

Article 5.2.5 of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) International Standard for Testing and Investigations (ISTI) specifies that anti-doping organisations (ADOs) should decide whether to test athletes who are serving a period of ineligibility. However, Article 4.5.2(c) specifies that ADOs should consider target testing athletes who are serving a period of ineligibility.

The IWF argued that claims by journalists that Talakhadze was not tested by the IWF were ‘completely false’, pointing out that he had been tested outside of competition three times during 2015 and six times during 2016. Journalists countered that these tests were performed by ADOs other than the IWF. In other words, the claims were not ‘completely false’, as alleged in the IWF statement.

To recap, Talakhadze is a high profile weightlifter who had been sanctioned for doping, yet he was taken out of the IWF’s IRTP and allowed to return to competition a year before the Rio 2016 Olympics without being tested by the IWF. Journalists argued that he is one of many examples of such practices.

Doppelgängers

Journalists also clarified that samples were taken from three Moldovan weightlifters – Ghenadie Dudoglu, Artiom Pipa, and Iurie Bulat – on 13 October 2014. The Moldovan weightlifting federation wanted to appeal to the CAS against adverse analytical findings (AAFs) reported by all three athletes at the Houston 2015 IWF World Championships, where the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) managed the IWF’s testing programme.

As such, the Cologne Laboratory reanalysed the 13 October 2014 samples, which had not returned AAFs. It found that the urine had been manipulated. The documentary on ARD’s SportsChau featured a secret recording with Dorin Balmus, Team Doctor to the Moldovan weightlifting team, in which he admitted using ‘doppelgängers’ to provide clean urine. Balmus also told a former weightlifter that it cost US$200 to report a clean IWF international test.

IWF Executive Board meeting

The owner of the two Swiss bank accounts into which the missing millions were paid is Tamás Aján, President of the IWF. On 7 January Nicu Vlad, Vice President of the IWF Executive Board, wrote to members of the Executive Board asking them to respond ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a request for an emergency meeting on 26 January, ahead of the Rome World Cup event which begins on 27 January.

Aján’s response (see below) to this request? No. However, he promises to update Executive Board members about a time and place for such a meeting next week. Also, it is understood that the Executive Board did not approve the IWF’s statement in response to the documentary broadcast on ARD’s SportsChau, and has told the IOC so.

Maintaining control

When corruption is alleged, it is standard practice for sporting officials to be provisionally suspended or to stand down whilst such allegations are investigated. IWF President Aján’s recent actions suggest that he is unwilling to relinquish control. 

It would appear that the IWF has violated its own constitution by failing to investigate allegations of corruption. That is likely to be of interest to the IOC, which in 2011 passed the buck back to the IWF to investigate such allegations.

In addition, it would appear that weightlifters serving a doping sanction were removed from the IWF International Registered Testing Pool (IRTP) whilst serving their ban, despite WADA advice that they should be targeted for testing. That is likely to be of interest to WADA, which has also pledged to investigate.

As reported yesterday, the apparent willingness of officials appointed by the Hungarian anti-doping organisation (HUNADO) to look the other way draws parallels with corruption allegations levelled at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). HUNADO’s statement outlined that it was responsible for sample collection only. But that doesn’t absolve HUNADO Doping Control Officers (DCOs) working on the IWF testing programme of all responsibility.

It is not known whether HUNADO DCOs are generously rewarded for their work. If such, they may not need $600 to look the other way whilst a doppelgänger provides a urine sample, as alleged by the Moldovan team doctor. It has long been suspected that DCOs may be susceptible to bribes. This allegation may also be of particular interest to WADA. 

Aján has been President of the IWF since 2000, was appointed as IWF Secretary General in 1976 and has been involved in the IWF since 1970. Given the above, it appears that his long stint in office could be coming to an abrupt end.

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