Bach: IWF still in the dock over doping; AIBA funding suspended
By Callum Murray in Lausanne
The International Weightlifting Federation remains on notice that the sport could lose its place on the Olympic programme in 2024 because of its doping problems, while the International Olympic Committee’s funding of AIBA, the international boxing federation, has been suspended until it provides a report on how it will resolve its governance problems, Thomas Bach, the IOC president, announced yesterday.
In June, weightlifting was told that its place in the Olympic Games beyond the 2020 edition in Tokyo could be at risk if the IWF did not deliver a “satisfactory” report to the IOC’s executive board meeting, which has been taking place here in Lausanne, on what Bach called the “massive doping problem” the sport is facing.
Bach said that the problem was “revealed once more by re-analysis of anti-doping tests” given by weightlifters at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where weightlifters produced 49 positive tests, resulting in the IOC stripping them of 29 medals.
Despite having received the requested report, Bach told a press conference wrapping up the executive board meeting yesterday: “Reanalysis and tests of weightlifting have shown that approximately 10 per cent of athletes were positive. Therefore, we have taken note of the plan of the IWF but decided that the status of weightlifting in the Olympic programme remains unchanged in 2024; it remains subject to fulfilment of certain conditions. In practical terms, we want to see the plan applied and see the effects of this plan: whether it’s appropriate to make weightlifting cleaner, and bring the numbers down and have a more deterrent effect.”
In the case of AIBA, Ching-Kuo Wu, an IOC member, recently stepped down as president of the federation which he had led since 2006, saying the move was in “the best interests” of the governing body, which has been embroiled in bitter infighting in recent months.
His position had become increasingly untenable after the AIBA executive committee unanimously backed, by a margin of 14-0, a suspension imposed pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings over several serious charges, including financial mismanagement.
Wu subsequently stepped down from the position he had held on the IOC executive board after five years, while retaining his IOC membership of 29 years.
Bach said: “The IOC executive board has major concerns over the situation within AIBA: governance issues, the fact that the financial statements have not been made fully transparent, and there are still questions open with regard to judging, refereeing and anti-doping.
“Therefore, we have asked AIBA for a full report by the end of January. In the meantime, it will have a general assembly in January, and we want to see what measures it is taking to address these issues. Until things change, the IOC will not make any financial contributions to AIBA. However, we will protect the athletes and sport. Talks at a technical level will continue to ensure preparations, for example, for the Youth Olympic Games [in Buenos Aires in 2018] or other events.”
An example of the kind of payments AIBA is expecting from the IOC include payments for the provision of referees for the Youth Olympic Games, due in March next year, Bach said.
Asked if Wu’s position as an IOC member is at risk, Bach said: “This is at this moment speculation. We have a declaration from the interim leadership that the dispute is about management, not ethical issues. That is the basis which we have now and, I cannot speculate on further developments.”
In June, Bach said that a “strong signal” was being sent to weightlifting by reducing its quota of athletes by 64, including the elimination of an entire men’s weight class to create greater gender equality, at the Tokyo 2020 games.
Yesterday he said: “We have already required from the IWF that the [athlete] quota reduction that the IOC executive board had already approved for Tokyo 2020 should be targeted at those national Olympic committees with the highest levels of violations, in particular with regard to the results [of sample reanalysis] from Beijing and London. With these conditions remaining in place, we have requested a further report for June 2018 so that the executive board in July can follow up on this issue.
“We will also contact WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] to ask for information on how WADA wants to proceed to address the high-risk countries for doping identified by WADA and the IOC. The IOC intends also to do further reanalysis from stored samples of London, with special emphasis on weightlifting. Until these conditions are fulfilled, the place of weightlifting for 2024 is subject to those conditions.”
Tamas Ajan, the IWF’s president, has previously blamed countries in the former Soviet bloc for the problem, noting: “There was a clear sign that in a certain region of the world the use of forbidden performance-enhancing drugs used to be an integral part of the athletes’ preparation... The IWF cannot be blamed for negligence.”
Russian doping Unsurprisingly, questions on the IOC’s landmark decision, announced on Tuesday, to sanction Russia for an alleged state-supported doping scandal relating to the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi, dominated the press conference.
The IOC ruled that selected ‘clean’ Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in February’s winter Olympics in PyeongChang, but only under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’, wearing uniforms bearing this name, and competing under the Olympic flag, with the Olympic anthem to be played at any ceremony.
In response to a question on whether the IOC had compromised by allowing the word ‘Russia’ to appear in the denomination of the athletes, Bach said: “It was not a compromise, it was just reflecting reality. I was at the IAAF World Championships in London [this summer] and saw [Russian] athletes participating as 'authorised independent athletes'. Everyone in the stadium and media spoke about the ‘Russian athletes’. It just reflects reality. This is where the thought process maybe started. This is how the denomination surfaced.”
Earlier yesterday, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, announced that Russia will not, as some had feared (and some Russian officials had suggested), boycott the PyeongChang games in retaliation for the sanctions.
Asked if he had had any contact with Putin over the sanctions, Bach said: “I did not discuss with President Putin either before or after the decision. I have today taken note of the [no-boycott] declaration via the press.
“Yesterday when we were announcing the decision to the Russian delegation [that appeared before the executive board to plead the Russian athletes’ case] I was informed that there would be a meeting on 12 December including athletes and sports leaders in Russia at which this question would be discussed. I hope and I am confident that clean athletes will seize this opportunity to participate, to represent a new generation of clean Russian athletes.”
Bach said that organisers of the PyeongChang games would not be compensated for the absence of the official Russian team, potentially a big draw at the games, adding: “The awareness is rising and the lights seem to be green for a successful winter games.”