This is big.
Remember the original German ARD documentary that got the whole olympics re-test ball rolling?
Well, the same team around Hajo Seppelt has been working on a new documentary, specifically targeting the international weightlifting federation (IWF)!
See updates below.
Video with English Subtitles
Below is a rundown with my rough notes and translated transcripts. Read the full thing.
- suspected of corruption
- Secret bank accounts
- Manipulation of samples
- Child doping in Thailand
IOC knew about the documents used in this documentary for years, but chose to ignore it.
Update 06.01.2020: (via afp) IOC will discuss the matter on Wednesday, but says “it was not in possession of ‘most of the documents’ on which the film is based”.
Update: IWF Response
Update 07.01.2020: Thai Weightlifting’s response with a comically bad denial PDF here.
Update: IWF executive board meeting planned for the 27th in Rome (with tiny majority in favor). Against Ajan’s wishes.
Update 10.01.2020: IWF announced that Ajan will not run for reelection.
He declared that he wouldn’t resign, but that he wouldn’t run for reelection next year either. “My life, my fifty years of work, has been totally ruined by this documentary.”
Update: Here is the denial from Moldova.
Update 15.01.2020: New letter from Ajan to member federations (PDF).
- From Sportschau (ARD’s sports site): Maxim Agapitov (President of Russian weightlifting) says “From an ethical standpoint, Ajan has to step down and take responsibility for everything”.
- They also say that they have new documents showing a lack of doping tests in countries like Armenia, Egypt and China.
- Dick Pound, longstanding IOC member, former head of WADA told ARD: “[Correction: previously we wrote “With all these facts”] IF all these facts are established, one of the the logical answer—at least in the short term—can only be, to remove weightlifting from the olympic program until they can show to the IOC that weightlifting is delivering on the Olympic values”. (via, also via)
Update 22.01.2019: At the executive board meeting in Doha, it was decided that Ajan withdraws for a 90 day period. Further they approved Ursula Papandrea as interim president.
Update 04.04.2020: (via) The IWF Independent Member Federation Sanctions Panel (IMFSP) put in place the following sanctions for the Thai weightlifting federation:
- TAWA minor athletes (under the age of 18) and their ASP are prohibited from participating in international competitions for an additional five months following the next IWF event which takes place. All other TAWA athletes and ASP are prohibited from participating in international competitions for an additional 11 months following the next IWF event which takes place. (Based on TAWA’s voluntary undertaking, TAWA athletes and their ASP have already been suspended since 7 March 2019. The additional sanction periods imposed by the IMFSP will not start to run during the period when all IWF events are cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic).
- TAWA athletes shall not compete in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (regardless of the change of date).
- The Membership status of TAWA is suspended for a period of three years through to 1 April 2023 (TAWA officials are suspended for two years and are not eligible to be appointed to any IWF position so long as TAWA remains suspended.) The three-year suspension of TAWA will be reviewed and may be lifted on or after 7 March 2022 if TAWA can demonstrate it has met pre-defined criteria.
- The fine imposed on TAWA is USD 200,000.00. Half of it is imposed as a penalty, the remainder shall be used by IWF to offset IWF costs already incurred in connection with the TAWA matter and for additional IWF testing of TAWA athletes.
Update 11.04.2020: Further allegations against Ajan, plus more doping cover ups from the past. (via ARD)
“Dr. Aján called and threatened to arrest me,” Papandrea wrote to her colleagues in the IWF executive, “I was told I was nobody and he was the president.” She would ask the US embassy for protection: “I don’t know where to go. I’m afraid he’ll send someone to my hotel.” As the ARD doping office also found out, Aján gave investigators limited access to the computers at the IWF headquarters.
Video (enable subtitles CC in the player)
Update 15.04.2020: Tamas Ajan resigns with immediate effect (via IWF).
Update 24.04.2020: Ajan has been given an ambassadorial role “and will continue to draw his salary for several months” (via ARD)
Update 22.08.2020: Via ARD come these new reports about a recent IWF online executive board meeting:
Shortly before his forced retirement Ajan supposedly paid himself 356000 Euros (350k was his annual salary, plus additional 6k). This happened in multiple steps during February and March when Ajan was no longer permitted to do financial transactions. None of which was known to IWF president Ursula Papandrea at the time.
IWF now considers suing Ajan (also because of the 10.4 million USD that are unaccounted for). He is still being investigated in Hungary and Switzerland.
They also withdrew Ajan’s ambassadorial role (Update 24.04.2020 above).
Summary / Transcripts of the Documentary
It starts in Thailand, at worlds in Pattaya with an introduction of Ajan who has been in a leading position in the sport for over 50 years.
- weightlifting had 700 doping cases since 2000 (that were officially reported)
- “In no other sport are there as many cheaters than in weightlifting”
- Months before worlds they received hundreds of pages of confidential documents
- 16000 doping test from the last 10 years up to 2018, Blood and urine, these took months to evaluate
- 2008-2017 540 medals from worlds and olympics. Almost 50% of medalists were not tested.
- 2/3 of Russian medalists were not tested
- IWF had a blind eye in training periods
Meissen, Meissen Cup of the Blue Swords in 2019
- Lydia Valentin interview
- They tell her that her opponents were not tested
- “There were no drug tests because they [IWF] knew those would come back positive”
Batumi Europeans 2019
- They tried to get in contact with the testers there.
- They focus on Lasha
- From their documents before 2016 Olympics, and worlds 2015 he was never tested in training (doesn’t specify how long before)
- During his ban, he was not tested.
Update: Officials from team Georgia contacted me to state that this is not accurate and that the journalists never asked for the relevant information.
In ADAMS it is available that Lasha was tested twice before Houston 2015 worlds. Before Rio 2016 he was tested 6 times.
- They tried to interview the testers from HUNADO, but they don’t want to talk in front of the camera.
- IWF almost exclusively employs HUNADO
- they carried out 77% of the tests
- Even at worlds they used their HUNADO testers
- EXCEPT Houston worlds 2015, which produced more positives than ever before
- IWF planned to use HUNADO there
- USADA was skeptical, wanted to do tests themselves
- Travis Tygart (USADA), said it was difficult to get the authority to do the testing
- IWF sent a letter, protesting the decision to hand over testing to USADA
- they wanted to use “ experienced testers of HUNADO”
- USADA checked hotel rooms, found syringes
- USADA found 24 doping cases at once
- they talk to Oliver Caruso, former head coach of the German national team. Olympic bronze medalist 1996.
- Carouso talks about a conversation with a Moldovan on how to avoid a positive test
- He asked what we had to pay in Germany to test clean. Oliver said, that’s not possible in Germany.
- In Moldova it is 60 USD for a national test, USD 200 for an international test
- They identify the person he talked to as Dorin Balmus, team doctor of the Moldovan national team
When testers came, we brought our lookalikes […] They gave clean urine, and we paid.
- They meet Dorin undercover
- They pretend to be managers from lifters from western Europe
- “We were tested by testers from Hungary” says Dorin
- When testers came, we brought our lookalikes, people who kinda look like our athletes.
- They gave clean urine, and we paid.
- You pay that they [testers] didn’t take a closer look into the passports.
- Almost all samples from weightlifters are analyzed here
- They talk to Hans Geyer, who analyzes samples in the WADA accredited lab
- 2015 IWF testers tested samples right before worlds – these tests came out clean
- Shortly after, tested by USADA, the same athletes tested positive
- They found traces of doping that had to have occurred a long time ago.
- How come this didn’t show up in the earlier tests?
- Geyer: there was manipulation “they used foreign urine. We figured that out with the biological passport and DNA analaysis.”
- Those tests were carried out by HUNADO testers
- HUNADO and the Moldovan agency were contacted. They said they had no knowledge of such cases.
- Segment here
- we are introduced to Intarat Yodbangtoey, IWF first vice president, thailand
- Before worlds they contacted Rattikan Gulnoi, never convicted of doping before. She received Bronze the 2012 Olympics (58kg) after initially placing 4th.
- She now works in a commercial gym
- they record their meeting with a hidden camera
- Pretend to be managers of European weightlifters, and plan training camp, saying they need doctors, trainers, and doping
- She talks… “I can set up a training plan, you have to adjust the training for the doping. […] Our substances here are not good. Mostly they come from other countries
But I can’t say a lot, it’s strictly confidential. I don’t want to tell any national secrets.”
- But then she talks…
Gulnoi: “We take stuff that is undetectable after 24 hours. Another substance is more effective, but detectable for 3 days”
Q: What are the side effects?
Gulnoi: “Deeper voice, hair growth. When I took it, I had a jaw like a man and a mustache. The people in power don’t care about health of the athletes. Athletes should bring home medals, even youth athletes.
Q: When did the youngest start doping?
Gulnoi: At age 13 in national championships.
Q: What age did you start?
Gulnoi: At 18, in 2011 so my body could keep up.
Q: What did you use in 2012?
Q: Were you able to pass the tests in 2012?
Gulnoi: Yes twice. I think I am the only thai that didn’t get popped until now.
Q: How could you be sure to not get caught?
Gulnoi: We stopped taking it early enough. The boss and coach planned it meticulously. Inject, pause, inject pause.
- They show Gulnoi in London, Intarat Yodbangtoey coaching her. Now he is IWF vice president.
- Ajan avoided interviews
How does IWF handle positves?
- in 2013, Azerbaijan had 18 lifters test positive
- Documents show, IWF knew about tests from the beginning, but let them compete at international competitions
- Bans handed out one year later
- Back in Cologne, with Geyer
- Reviewing AZE positives, Geyer surprised that those positives were not acted upon
- Interviewing, Jürgen Spieß
- “Winning against dopers, almost impossible”
- Says he is caught off guard by how openly some athletes talk about using
- Says the worst thing is that powerlessness as an athlete having to deal with that system
- “I don’t lift against the athletes, I lift against the system of the corresponding country”
Weightlifting & Olympics
- Under pressure the IWF agreed to hand off the responsibilities of testing
- An agency close to the IOC took over control, but they still contracted HUNADO
- “IWF earns millions off doping”, because of special rules in IWF
- National committees have to pay fines for positives. Sometimes $5000 per athlete, sometimes $200000 Or even $500000 for countries
- Payments were sometimes done in cash
- they show a letter from the president of Ukranian weightlifting, who wrote “We paid in cash, just like Ajan requested”
- 2013 Azerbaijan and other countries were overdue with payments
- AZE had to pay $500000 for the 2013 positives, BUT AZE didn’t show up in list of payments
- “Book keeping error? Cash payments?”
Then they take a closer look at Ajan and his biography
- IWF pays Ajan 270000 Euros per year
- Christian Baumgartner, president of German weightlifting, says “Ajan stands for a system that established doping over decades”
- 2013 Baumgartner was elected in IWF executive board. Next election he didn’t get enough votes.
- Opponents that are not on Ajan’s party line, will not make it in IWF
- “A culture of corruption developed”
- “The systems you need to cover up doping need corruption / corrupt systems”
- Next is the topic of secret bank accounts
- They interview Antonio Urso, president of the European weightlifting federation
- He shows a document, showing how much the IOC gave to the IWF over the years
- Over a period of 17 years since 1992, more than $23 million went into two Swiss IMF bank accounts, which, however, were not listed in the IWF’s balance sheets. When these accounts were discovered in 2009, Ajan alone was authorized to sign.
- According to ARD research, Ajan could not explain the whereabouts of at least $5.5 million.
- Urso: very interesting that nobody was informed about the bank accounts
ARD got their hands on audio recording from a meeting of some executive board members and a new book keeping firm, which happened in September 2009 in Budapest
- Ajan: if we make [it] any big problem, it could make a dangerous situation for the weightlifting sport. […] Most important is the unity and peace
- Ajan says, the money in those Swiss bank accounts is thought of as a reserve
- Book keepers wanted to know why those IOC millions are in secret bank accounts
- Ajan doesn’t have answers, board members don’t ask questions
- Baumgartner says the 5.5 million that are unaccounted for are a conservative estimate, Baumgartner says it’s maybe as much as 7-8 M USD with interest rate
- Urso wrote to the IOC, saying “your money is missing”
- IOC responded: that’s an internal problem
- IOC doesn’t want to be responsible
Why no legal actions?
Baumgartner sarcastically: in sports it’s not proper behaviour to prosecute legal matters amongst colleagues.
- They talk to Mark Pieth, Anti corruption expert, worked on FIFA
- He and his team did a legal study. After weeks of reviewing IWF documents
- “What I saw here seems very, very brazen to me. More brazen than what I saw at FIFA.”
- After weeks long review they came to the conclusion that what they found justified an initial suspicion
- Namely: forgery of documents, private wrong accounting
- unfaithful business
- and potentially embezzlement
- all these justify a strong initial suspicion and should force the Swiss authorities to investigate