Former International Weightlifting Federation President Tamás Aján has been banned for life by the Court of Arbitration for Sport ©Getty Images

Former International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) President Tamás Aján has been banned for life by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Romania's Nicu Vlad, who won Olympic gold in the men's 90 kilograms event at Los Angeles 1984, has also been handed a lifetime ban.

The sanctions follow a request from the International Testing Agency (ITA), acting on delegation from the IWF, for arbitration at the CAS anti-doping division (ADD) following allegations against the pair.

Vlad, a former vice-president of the IWF Anti-Doping Commission and a previous chairman of the IWF Technical Committee, and Aján were accused of "tampering with the doping control process".

They were also charged with "anti-doping rule violations involving multiple weightlifting athletes over a period of many years since 2012".

Offences the pair have been found to have committed include "covering up, delaying and obstructing results management for certain athletes that committed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs)".

"The ADRVs asserted against both former IWF officials were proven to the comfortable satisfaction of the CAS ADD sole arbitrator," a CAS statement said.

"Given the seriousness of the ADRVs and the length of time over which they were committed, the CAS ADD sole arbitrator found lifetime ineligibility to be the appropriate sanction."

Olympic gold medallist Nicu Vlad has also been banned for life ©Getty Images
Olympic gold medallist Nicu Vlad has also been banned for life ©Getty Images

Aján resigned as IWF President in 2020 following the ARD documentary Lord of the Lifters, which accused him of corruption in anti-doping procedures and financial malpractice.

He was later charged by the ITA of colluding with IWF Board member Vlad to allow a Romanian to win a medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games when she was twice suspended - for doping and sample swapping.

Eighty-three-year-old Aján had been President of the IWF since 2000 before his resignation, and was also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

He also served as IWF general secretary for 24 years, holding high office at the organisation since 1976.

The ITA has led the independent anti-doping programme for weightlifting, which is in danger of losing its Olympic place due to its various scandals, since 2019.

It said that in 2020 and last year it investigated 146 unresolved cases over the 2009-2019 period that were passed to it by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

"During the ITA investigation, it transpired that some IWF and National Member Federation officials had themselves also committed ADRVs of complicity and tampering in relation to certain cases," the ITA said.

The ITA said both Aján and Vlad, a former Romanian head coach who won three Olympic medals and three world titles in all, challenged its charges against them.

"Their cases were referred to the CAS ADD where ITA successfully prosecuted the IWF officials," it said.

"CAS ADD has agreed with ITA's charges on all accounts."

ADD decisions may be appealed before the Appeals Division of the CAS.

Following the ARD documentary, Richard McLaren was appointed to carry out an investigation into the doping and corruption claims.

He discovered that more than $10 million (£8 million/€9.5 million) was unaccounted for, that 40 doping positives had been covered up and that vote-buying was rampant at the past two electoral congresses of the IWF.

A number of unprocessed doping cases he unearthed were passed onto the ITA for investigation.

In October 2020, WADA announced the results of its own Operation Arrow.

Weightlifting's Olympic place remains at risk ©Getty Images
Weightlifting's Olympic place remains at risk ©Getty Images

This reported that 18 weightlifters from six countries were suspected of providing manipulated urine samples after a probe discovered evidence of "doppelgangers" impersonating athletes.

These cases have also been investigated by the ITA, which slammed the IWF's past behaviour for making its work more difficult.

Twenty-nine unsanctioned doping cases are impossible to prosecute, it said, due to evidence being destroyed or the statute of limitation being passed.

"The reasons why these cases were unprocessed and/or unsanctioned, ranged from mere administrative oversight, poor record keeping, chaotic organisational processes, or jurisdictional errors - on one end of the spectrum - to indifference, outright negligence, complicity, or - at worst- blatant and intentional cover-ups," the ITA said.

"Whilst this large-scale investigation necessarily triggers other investigations and follow-up actions by the ITA, it is ITA's belief and intent that the report and now sanctions imposed against Tamás Aján and Nicu Vlad will enable the IWF to get to the bottom of the past misconduct, fix its issues and focus on the development of its sport and promotion of its athletes while the ITA ensures professional and independent anti-doping operations free from any political, national or sporting interests."

Eleven candidates are currently battling to be crowned as the new IWF President at elections in Albania on June 25 and 26, as the sport looks to clean up its image.

But the sport was removed from the initial programme for Los Angeles 2028 by the IOC and can only return if officials are satisfied that the culture of the sport has changed.

The IOC has repeatedly criticised the IWF over the past years after the corruption and doping scandals were exposed, and numerous lifters have been disqualified from the Olympic Games.

"This decision, which the ITA acknowledges and wholeheartedly supports, is clear evidence that its independent, fact-driven and impartial approach in anti-doping brings clear and actionable results in the favour of clean sport," said ITA director general Benjamin Cohen on the lifetime bans. 

"It is proof that this approach works and that athletes and any stakeholder committed to fairness can trust that we will relentlessly pursue any actions hurting their safe and equal participation in sports.

"It also demonstrates that we are ready to eradicate root causes of any type of doping violations at any level with the objective to provide athletes with a healthy and clean playing field to compete on. 

"We encourage the IWF to further pursue its ongoing reforms and we remain committed to tackle doping for weightlifting and any other sport that has entrusted us with that mission."