Russia investigator McLaren to lead probe of weightlifting

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              FILE - In this Friday Dec. 9, 2016 file photo, World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren speaks during a press conference in, London. One of world sport’s highest profile investigators, Richard McLaren, will lead an inquiry into alleged corruption in weightlifting under long-time leader Tamas Ajan. McLaren’s firm was appointed by the International Weightlifting Federation’s executive board to lead a 90-day investigation, the governing body said Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, file)
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GENEVA (AP) — Investigator Richard McLaren will lead an inquiry into alleged corruption in weightlifting under the sport’s long-time leader, Tamas Ajan.

McLaren’s firm was appointed by the International Weightlifting Federation executive board to lead a 90-day investigation, the governing body said Friday.

“As independent investigators we intend to follow every lead with the ultimate objective of uncovering the truth,” McLaren said in a statement published by the IWF.

The Canadian law professor was a respected Court of Arbitration for Sport judge before taking a central role in investigations of Russian state-backed doping.

The IWF previously called for an interim report into allegations made this month by German broadcaster ARD. The board and national members are due to meet from March 11-13 in Bucharest, Romania.

The program implicated Ajan in “financial irregularities, corruption, doping control distribution, doping sample manipulation, doping payment irregularities, doping activities in specific nations and nepotism,” the IWF said.

The 81-year-old Ajan has stood aside from his 20-year presidency of the IWF during the probe. He was general secretary for the previous 24 years.

Ajan, an International Olympic Committee member and then honorary member for the past 20 years, denies wrongdoing. He has said the investigation will vindicate him.

McLaren has a proven record of delivering investigative reports on a tight deadline. His work verifying a Russian whistleblower’s claims of state cheating and cover-ups at the 2014 Sochi Olympics led to intense legal processes for clearing some athletes to represent Russia at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

McLaren’s team includes lead financial investigator Steve Berryman, the IWF said. As an Internal Revenue Service agent, Berryman was a lead investigator in a sprawling investigation of financial corruption in international soccer linked to senior FIFA officials.

Acting IWF president Ursula Papandrea said the organization needed independent people outside the sport — “someone who is not a friend of weightlifting” — to investigate the allegations.

“That is why we selected Professor McLaren,” Papandrea said. “I thank my fellow executive board members for their courage in taking this extraordinary but necessary action.”