WADA - A summary of WADA investigations into the International Weightlifting Federation and the sport of weightlifting

A summary of WADA investigations into the International Weightlifting Federation and the sport of weightlifting / Intelligence and Investigations Department. - Montreal : World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), 2020

  • WADA published provisional outcomes of its ongoing investigation into weightlifting
  • Inquiry into practice of real-time urine substitution by athletes and the use of ‘doppelgängers’ has uncovered suspected cases involving 18 weightlifters from six countries
  • Call for additional powers for WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has developed a new method of detecting the prohibited practice of urine substitution at the point of collection and the use of sample surrogates or ‘doppelgängers’, following a ground-breaking investigation into the sport of weightlifting.

After more than three years examining the activities of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and the sport as a whole, WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations (I&I) Department today publishes the provisional findings of what is still an ongoing investigation.

Launched in August 2017, WADA I&I’s investigation into weightlifting has four pillars, namely:

  1. Operation Outreach, looking into claims that a high-ranking member of the IWF was paid to promote Russian interests and to protect Russian athletes from detection;
  2. Operation Heir, investigating allegations of an organized doping and protection scheme operating within Romanian weightlifting;
  3. Operation Extra, dealing with the complex process of collection, collation and assessment of all weightlifting intelligence received by WADA I&I; and
  4. Operation Arrow, a covert investigation into the practice of urine substitution at the point of collection.

This investigation has focused not just on athletes but also on others who might have been involved in facilitating this deception, including doping control officers, coaches, other athlete support personnel and officials. In 2019, WADA I&I successfully sought the support of multiple law enforcement agencies to investigate some of the allegations mentioned in the report. These law enforcement agencies approved today’s publication of this provisional report.

As it relates to Operation Arrow, the new methodology to refine the identification of potential substitute urine was developed by WADA I&I with assistance in part from confidential sources and analysis experts. This methodology has so far allowed investigators to identify, through DNA profile analysis, cases of suspected urine substitution involving 18 weightlifters from six countries. These cases will be presented to the International Testing Agency (ITA), to which the IWF has now delegated the conduct of its anti-doping program, for results management. WADA I&I found evidence of ‘doppelgängers’ being used to impersonate athletes during the sample collection process, ensuring clean urine was fraudulently provided.


  1. The Investigations
  2. Whistleblowing Program
  3. Confidential Information Unit
  4. Operation Outreach
  5. Operation Heir
  6. Operation Extra
  7. Operation Arrow
  8. Conclusion

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22 October 2020
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World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)
Tampering / attempted tampering
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19 October 2020
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26 October 2020
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