IWF’s Dr. Tamas Ajan Delegates Responsibilities; Ursula Garza-Papandrea Named Acting President

Ursula Garza-Papandrea will assume the position of acting president for a period of 90 days.

Editor’s Note: This article originally reflected claims that Dr. Ajan was suspended by the IWF. The IWF has since confirmed he will instead voluntarily delegate some duties down for a 90 day period. The article has been updated to reflect that update. We deeply regret any confusion.  

On January 5th, 2020, the TV documentary Secret Doping – the Lord of the Lifters aired via German broadcaster ARD. The documentary alleges financial corruption and cover-up of false drug testing by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and specifically IWF President, Dr. Tamas Ajan.

Although the IWF rejected many of the allegations made in the documentary, they did say they were “compiling a more robust response” in their press release following the documentary’s release. That “more robust response” has not yet been issued publically, but according to a Facebook post by Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting, in light of the allegations, the IWF took bold action during their executive board meeting in Doha, Qatar. 

The IWF President Tamas Ajan has stepped down from active duty for 90 days pending investigation, with Ursula Garza Papandrea (USA) taking the Interim Presidency for that period – leading a group of 4 overseeing the investigation.

In a statement issued on several channels, the IWF explained the move further:

For the 90-day period, and consistent with the practice of good governance, IWF President Tamas Ajan has delegated a range of operational responsibilities to IWF Vice President Ursula Papandrea, who will temporarily serve alongside Ajan in an Acting President role.

The IWF’s statement also included several direct quotes from Dr. Ajan regarding the delegation of responsibilities to Papandrea:

“Weightlifting has always been bigger than one man, and I am happy to have Ursula acting by my side me in a presidential capacity. The EB and I know that she will do a great job of ensuring that the validity of these allegations is examined and established in a way that is beyond criticism,” said Ajan.

The ARD documentary alleges seven to eight million dollars paid to the IWF by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is unaccounted for and being held in two Swiss bank accounts in Ajan’s name. According to audio from a 2009 interview, Ajan claimed the accounts in question are an emergency reserve fund for the IWF.

Ursula Garza-Papandrea was elected the first-ever female Vice President for the IWF in May 2017. Ajan was elected to his fifth term during that same election cycle.

IWF Logo
Logo International Weightlifting Federation

Garza-Papandrea states her view of the allegations in a recent article on insidethegames, where she writes:

“If the allegations prove true, the reputation of the sport, which has already been plagued with doping problems, will take another hit. We must address these issues, quickly and effectively.”

She goes on to say that the “first step must be to ascertain veracity of the claims”, “ensure that a legitimate investigation is conducted”, and “make sure that due process is provided.”

[Related: Phil Andrews’ interview with BarBend regarding the ARD documentary allegations.]

We’ll provide more info on the IWF’s organizational changes as they become available.

Editor’s note: BarBend is the Official Media Partner of USA Weightlifting. Unless otherwise noted for special projects, the two organizations maintain editorial independence.

Phil Blechman

Phil Blechman

Phil is a native New Yorker passionate about storytelling, bodybuilding, and game design. He holds a BFA from Syracuse University.

Before becoming a Staff Writer at BarBend, Phil worked on the creative team at World Wrestling Entertainment, as a narrator for Audible.com with over a dozen titles, and as a producer, director, and playwright Off-Broadway in New York City where he worked for The Araca Group and co-founded IJB Theatrical Productions. He can be heard as a co-host of both the Here’s What’s Up podcast and Eternal Durdles podcast.

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