By Brian Oliver
LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Tamas Ajan will stand aside as president of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) for 90 days pending investigations into allegations of corruption, the governing body said in a statement on Wednesday.
American Ursula Papandrea, president of USA Weightlifting, becomes the IWF’s acting president until April, when Ajan hopes to return.
Ajan, 81, has been at the sport’s governing body since 1976, serving 24 years as general secretary and 20 as president.
The decision for Ajan to stand aside was made at an extraordinary meeting of the IWF executive board in Doha, Qatar that lasted 13 hours.
Hungary's Ajan had been criticised by members of the board after a recent documentary, made by the German state broadcaster ARD, included allegations of corruption in the sport over many years.
The IWF denied the allegations and Ajan said the documentary, which focused on him and was titled Secret Doping – The Lord of the Lifters, had “ruined my life and 50 years of my work”.
The IWF said it has set up a new commission to recommend independent experts who will investigate claims of financial impropriety, and corruption in anti-doping procedures, which were raised in the documentary.
Ajan said in an IWF statement released on Wednesday that the ARD allegations were unfounded.
“They are not supported by the relevant documentation or by people involved in the relevant decisions," he said.
“Consequently, I have no doubt that external experts will vindicate my commitment of nearly 50 years to develop the sport of weightlifting.
“Weightlifting has always been bigger than one man, and I am happy to have Ursula acting by my side me in a presidential capacity.”
Papandrea was one of the board members who suggested in the days before the meeting that the IWF needed new leadership.
(Editing by Toby Davis)