Under-fire weightlifting chief steps aside for corruption probe

International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President, Romanian Tamas Ajan, pictured during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, has relinquished his duties while an independent investigation is carried out

International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) president Tamas Ajan agreed late Wednesday to relinquish his duties for 90 days while an independent investigation into allegations of corruption and doping violations are carried out.

Ursula Papandrea, the president of USA Weightlifting, will take over veteran Ajan's role in an acting capacity until April, said an IWF statement issued late Wednesday in Doha after a 13-hour emergency meeting of the organisation's executive board.

German broadcaster ARD alleged in a documentary earlier this month that a "culture of corruption" had been established in the Olympic sport with prominent weightlifters rarely subjected to drugs tests and cash being taken by doping controllers to accept manipulated urine samples.

The IWF executive board agreed to appoint independent experts to assess the allegations, a move it claimed would act "decisively" to restore the governing body's battered reputation.

"This work is expected to be completed during a 90-day period, starting immediately," it said.

Hungarian Ajan, 81, who has been at the IWF since 1976 serving 24 years as general secretary and the past 20 as president, claimed the documentary's allegations were unfounded.

"They are not supported by the relevant documentation or by people involved in the relevant decisions," he was quoted as saying in the statement.

- 'Unjust attack' -

The IWF said analysis of the ARD allegations was considered at the meeting, followed by "comprehensive discussions" and the decision to carry out "a detailed plan of action".

"Consistent with the principle at the heart of the IWF's successful and widely-welcomed recent anti-doping reforms, the IWF will now convene a group of independent experts to assess the validity of the ARD allegations," the IWF said.

Papandrea will head a commission to identify experts in fields including anti-doping and financial reporting.

"The experts will be appointed by the IWF executive board," said the statement and will report to the next IWF Congress in Bucharest in March.

The documentary by journalists at German broadcaster ARD including Hajo Seppelt, who broke the story on Russia's state doping scandal, claimed that half of the 450 world championship or Olympic medallists between 2008 and 2017 were not asked to undertake any doping tests while a doctor for the Moldovan team was caught on hidden camera explaining how urine samples could be manipulated.

Beyond doping, the report accused the IWF of transferring $5 million in funding from the International Olympic Committee into two Swiss accounts overseen only by Ajan.

Ajan claimed he had been the victim of "an unjust attack" by ARD.

"It should be stressed that yes, there are two bank accounts, but neither is secret," said Ajan in an interview with Hungarian TV.

"This film has completely ruined my life and 50 years of my work. A large part of my work has been about doping prevention," he added.

"That's why it was a blow to the gut for them to claim we had done nothing."