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International Weightlifting Federation in ‘crisis’ – Russia

The sport risks losing its Olympic status due to the leadership’s manipulation, the RWF has said

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) is going through a deep crisis caused by the corruption and manipulation of its former leadership, which it has failed to eradicate, the Russian Weightlifting Federation (RWF) has recently warned. 

Various international sports bodies have taken no action to address the numerous suspicions raised against top IWF executives despite some of them being mentioned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a ruling last year, the RWF said, accusing the International Olympic Committee of covering up the alleged misdeeds. 

The last time the issue entered the spotlight was in September 2023, after the CAS passed its judgment in the case of the RWF head, Maksim Agapitov. The Russian sports official, who is also the first vice president of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF), had a dispute against Attila Adamfi, vice president of the IWF. 

Agapitov’s case dates back to August 2021, when he accused Adamfi of being “implicated, or repeatedly mentioned in a negative context” in connection to a major IWF corruption scandal. At the time, the Russian official published an open letter criticizing the then-non-executive director and current CEO of British Weight Lifting (BWL), Matthew Curtain, for forming an alliance with Adamfi and thus “bringing weightlifting into disrepute.” 

At the time, Agapitov also published a video titled ‘Say No to doping. Save Weightlifting’, in which he detailed the situation and presented his anti-doping agenda. 

The dispute ended up with the EWF Ethics and Disciplinary Commission accusing Agapitov of abuse of office and slapping him with a $7,000 fine. The open letter also cost the Russian official his position as EWF interim president at the time. 

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Agapitov challenged the ethics commission’s decision in the CAS and won the case in August 2023. In its decision, which was not made public, the CAS mentioned suspicions against Adamfi, including his alleged role in financial manipulations and vote buying within the IWF, the RWF said in a statement. 

The suspicions mentioned by the CAS go back to the 2020 corruption scandal that rocked the IWF and forced its long-time president, Tamas Ajan, to resign. It all started with a German investigative documentary by journalist Hajo Seppelt titled ‘Secret Doping – the Lord of the Lifters’, which focused on corruption within the IWF and specifically on Ajan, who held sway over the IWF for more than 40 years. 

The documentary prompted an investigation led by Canadian sports lawyer Richard McLaren, whose report in 2016 led to long-running allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia, as well as punitive sanctions that did not expire until December 2022. 

In his 2022 weightlifting report, McLaren accused Ajan of “autocratic authoritarian leadership,” which led to “a dysfunctional, ineffective oversight of the organization by the Executive Board.” 

The report also alleged financial manipulations, saying the investigative team “determined that $10.4 million [was] unaccounted for” with regard to IWF finances.

Adamfi, who happens to be Ajan’s son-in-law, was also repeatedly mentioned in the report, although McLaren’s team stopped short of making direct accusations against him in the publicly available part of the document. It did say, however, that Ajan created the position of IWF director-general in 2014, to which he immediately promoted Adamfi. 

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The man ran the IWF’s day-to-day operations under Ajan and became the de-facto “active president,” the report noted. It also alleged that Adamfi was implicated in untraceable financial transactions and buying votes to ensure Ajan’s continued presidency. 

The RWF openly called Adamfi Ajan’s “heir” and one of the key “architects” behind the doping and corruption system within the IWF. Agapitov also warned that the man also enjoys ties with the IOC and “cooperates” with the International Olympics body in its anti-doping efforts. 

“The IWF corrupt officials have patrons in the IOC that cover up their violations,” the RWF said in a statement. This situation harms clean athletes and only serves the interests of those involved in shady schemes, it added. 

In contrast to what happened to Russia in 2016, the 2020 McLaren report did not apparently lead to any action being taken against Adamfi. The official is still listed as a vice president on the IWF website. 

March 05, 2024 at 04:47PM
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