Former IWF President Tamas Ajan revealed in a letter that the governing body had delayed reporting doping cases ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says it has "great concern" regarding letters published from 2013 which allege former International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President Tamás Aján intervened to delay reporting positive tests involving weightlifters from Azerbaijan.

Letters were published by website Play the Game, which show Aján writing to Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation President Jahangir Askerov to inform him of eight new positive tests from the country’s weightlifters.

The positives take the country’s total to 23 in the year.

Aján describes the cases as "clearly a moral massacre regarding the athletes", before informing the federation it will receive a financial sanction.

The IWF President then writes that "the mentioned cases will not yet be published but I can no longer take the responsibility in front of the WADA and the IOC [International Olympic Committee] for your federation".

He requests none of the athletes who have tested positive take part in the upcoming World Championships.

The athletes involved allegedly did participate in the event.

In a second letter from Aján to the Azerbaijani body, dated December 2013, the IWF President reveals that the governing body has intervened to delay reporting the cases to the WADA.

"Kindly ask you to treat this letter with outmost discretion since the subject we have to discuss is very sensitive and needs careful consideration," Aján writes in the letter, published by Play the Game.

"In 2013 there were 23 positive cases among your athletes related to 18 athletes, whereas 5 athletes are concerned twice.

"This important issue is not only a concern for the IWF Secretariat but also WADA is aware of the samples, without name and nationality.

"The IWF however shall report to WADA to name, country and sanction related to each sample code number.

"There is a standardized control system for the entire sport world therefore there is no way for the IWF to cover up these cases.

"What we have done for your athletes and Federation is something the IWF has never done before and not willing or able to do in the future.

"The knot tightens around my neck and my 45 years work could go down in a blink.

"The IWF keeps receiving reminders from WADA related to all 23 cases and sooner or later an answer shall be given."

The athletes involved were eventually suspended.

WADA said it had
WADA said it had "great concern" following the latest allegations ©Getty Images

Aján resigned as IWF President in April after he was accused of corruption featuring financial malpractice, anti-doping cover-ups and vote-rigging in a report from Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, commissioned to investigate claims made in a documentary broadcast by ARD in Germany.

McLaren revealed 40 doping cases had been deliberately covered up by his team during the period under investigation, and news later emerged of another 130 "hidden" doping samples during the Hungarian's tenure.

WADA is investigating the accusations made against Aján, who served on the organisation's Foundation Board until 2018 and during the time the alleged offences occurred.

WADA has described the latest allegations as being of "great concern".

"These latest allegations of wrongdoing by the former IWF President are infuriating," said WADA President Witold Bańka in a statement.

"According to WADA I&I [Intelligence and Investigations], which was the first to initiate an investigation, as well as media reports and Prof. McLaren’s findings, there was a culture of doping in weightlifting that was tolerated, facilitated and hidden for a long time.

"Clearly, this is unacceptable to WADA and all those around the world who care about clean sport.

"WADA will continue to do all it can to help the athletes of this sport to compete on a level playing field in a safe and healthy environment."

WADA says it wrote to the IWF in August and October to enquire about what action the IWF was planning to take against Aján based on the findings of the McLaren investigation and the provisional findings of its I&I department’s investigation.

The organisation said it will ask the IWF to take this latest media report into account in its review of the case.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli announced yesterday that the global watchdog had asked the International Testing Agency - which handles the IWF's anti-doping programme - "for its position on whether they could bring a case against Aján under anti-doping rules".

Niggli said WADA had also been in contact with the IWF to see whether the 81-year-old could face sanctions for breaches of "other rules like code of ethics or other regulations at the IWF, in case they cannot do it under anti-doping rules".

WADA further appeared to lodge a defence over its own action regarding the case.

The organisation claims it exerted considerable pressure on the IWF over the years to swiftly conduct results management on all adverse analytical findings.

WADA insists that "without being in possession of all information, there were no indications of improper interference with the IWF results management at the time."

The organisation said there was no legal basis to have the ability to sanction delays in results management prior to the coming into force of the International Standard for Code Compliance for Signatories on 1 April 2018, which does not apply retroactively.

WADA noted that it was only given investigative powers in 2015.