LONDON (Reuters) - Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor whose findings led to the World Anti-Doping Agency recommending Russia be banned from the 2016 Olympic Games, is to head an independent investigation into allegations of corruption in weightlifting.
The allegations were made in a TV documentary, Secret Doping – Lord of the Lifters, shown by the German state broadcaster ARD on Jan. 5.
The programme focused largely on Tamas Ajan, the 81-year-old Hungarian who has been general secretary and president of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) since 1976.
Ajan has denied any wrongdoing. He stood aside as president last week for 90 days, pending an independent investigation, which will now begin on Monday under McLaren’s leadership. [nL8N29R75Q]
A statement from the IWF said McLaren had been appointed “to independently investigate allegations of impropriety surrounding President Dr Tamas Ajan and the IWF.
“The documentary claimed leadership of the IWF, including President Ajan, participated in and/or had knowledge of financial irregularities, corruption, doping control distribution, doping sample manipulation, doping payment irregularities, doping activities in specific nations and nepotism.”
Undercover reporters from ARD also filmed a Thai Olympic medallist, Siripuch Gulnoi, talking of widespread doping in her nation, which is banned from Tokyo 2020 because of multiple doping offences.
Gulnoi, who won bronze at London 2012 under her former name of Rattikan, said girls as young as 13 were doping. On Thursday the entire board of the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association resigned.
The IWF’s acting president, the American Ursula Garza Papandrea, said the governing body needed “someone who is not a friend of weightlifting to look into these serious and historic allegations.”
“A whistleblower line will be set up and a separate announcement will be made when that is operational,” the statement said.
While the IWF was announcing McLaren’s role, the athletes’ representative body Global Athlete issued a statement – signed by a Canadian Olympic champion, a bronze medallist from the U.S., and others – demanding change at a time when “too many athletes do not trust the IWF”.
The ARD team, led by Hajo Seppelt, was first to expose the extent of state-sponsored doping in Russia in a 2014 documentary, a precursor to the McLaren Report that led to WADA declaring that the country should be banned outright from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“Cleared” Russians competed in most sports under a neutral flag but were banned from athletics and weightlifting.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) described the latest allegations as “very serious and worrying”.
Editing by Christian Radnedge