Geheimsache Doping: Der Herr der Heber/ The Lord of the Lifters (activate “C” for English subs)

Geheimsache Doping: Der Herr der Heber/ The Lord of the Lifters   (activate “C” for English subs)

This is a movie about officials who are destroying an Olympic sport. “A culture of corruption has set in.” In which clean athletes count little. “I couldn’t think about how unfair it all is, it was sheer helplessness” In which doping tests are manipulated. “They provided clean urine. And we paid up.” A sport in which millions disappear. “More audacious than anything I’ve seen at FIFA.” A sport that has been governed by one man for almost half a century. Doping Top Secret The Lord of the Lifters The destruction of an Olympic sport Pattaya. Thailand. A world-renowned holiday paradise. A place where pretty much everything can be bought. An Olympic sport chose this place to host its World Championships. Championships as never been seen before. A hundred nations present, only the host was missing – due to mass doping. No one wanted Thailand to compete any longer. The host nation withdrew under pressure. The man who brought the World Championships here nonetheless is a Hungarian. 80 years of age. Tamás Aján. Executive of the International Weightlifting Federation for half a century. The President of a sport that is supposed to stand for strength, dynamism and elation. With images like these, Tamás Aján wants to sell his sport, which became part of the Olympic programme back in 1896, to the whole world. But since the year 2000, when he became President, more than 700 cases of doping have been uncovered. The number of unreported cases is unknown. No other sport has more cheats among its medallists than weightlifting. What has this man got to do with it? Months before the World Championships in Thailand, unique confidential documents were given to the ARD doping editorial team. Many hundreds of pages. About more than 16,000 anti-doping tests spanning over ten years – up to 2018. Tests related to Olympic Games, World Championships. By athletes from all over the world. Blood tests and urine tests. In the hands of the International Federation, the IWF, and, according to its By-Laws, under the authority of the President. Internal documents. Checked by us for authenticity and analysed for several months. These documents lead us into the abyss of a discipline that is among the oldest Olympic sports. But not only that, weightlifting is a sport in which many athletes have suddenly fallen seriously ill. Heart conditions, diabetes, liver failure. The typical consequences of doping. Equally striking, a large number of lifters have died at an unusually young age. In 2018, however, in one of his rare interviews, the President Tamás Aján sees himself as a guarantee of clean sporting success. I am working against the doping system since 1975. I try to do everything to make a clean sport in the weightlifting. I did everything! Is Aján telling the truth? The result of our analysis of the documents from his Federation doesn’t tally with his statement. More than 450 medals were awarded at Olympic Games and World Championships between 2008 and 2017. Almost half of the medallists were not tested out of competition once by the International Federation in the year of their victory. Particularly striking is Russia, where state-sponsored doping has since been proven: two-thirds of their top athletes were not tested at all before their triumph. This opened the door wide to cheating, because the IWF failed to look at many of the world elite at a time when doping is particularly effective – in training. No athlete in the world is aware of these figures. We are in Meißen, Saxony. At the traditional Cup of the Blue Swords tournament. Among the top stars, female lifter Lidia Valentin. In her home country Spain, everyone knows her. Three Olympic medals, two-time Women’s Lifter of the Year. Valentin was regularly tested for doping. Both in and out of competition. We tell her about our findings from the internal IWF documents. She learns from us that her toughest opponents from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus were seldom tested, if at all. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it. I didn’t know that. It’s scandalous information. And I ask myself: Why? Why not them, but possibly us? Or Germany, or France, England, clean lifters. Not Kazakhstan or Russia, why weren’t they tested? It’s not fair. Well, I think I know the answer. There were no tests because they knew they would be positive. Dopers initially prevented Lidia Valentin from capturing victory. It was only years later, when the International Olympic Committee retested frozen doping samples … … that the women ranked above her were found guilty of doping, thanks to new methods of detection. She had to wait seven years to claim gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Lidia Valentin never got to experience the feeling of standing on top of the podium at the actual Olympics because of no less than three women whose doping violations went undetected in London. I focused completely on training and on my work. I couldn’t think about how unfair it all is, it was sheer helplessness. It’s just not fair. But there’s nothing you can do. It was a case of accepting it or chucking it all in. Batumi, in Georgia. On the Black Sea. Here, at the European Championships in April, we want to approach the people who carry out doping tests in weightlifting. It is rare for journalists to take an interest in such matters at events like these. The world’s strongest man takes to the stage, performing in front of a home crowd. Lasha Talakhadze, a Georgian super-heavyweight lifter. Breaks his own world record once again. What people here in Georgia are not keen to talk about is that Talakhadze was once suspended for doping. We know from analysing the internal IWF documents that, before winning the 2016 Olympics and before his victory at the 2015 World Championships, he, of all people – the superstar previously caught doping – was not tested once by the IWF in training. And even while Talakhadze was sitting out his suspension the International Federation did not send any officers to test him. By the time the ban was over, he was stronger than ever before. The person chiefly responsible for anti-doping tests here, and not just for this athlete: The Hungarian Barbara Kallo. She and her team have been commissioned by the International Federation to work in Batumi. We want to talk to her, but she avoids us at the event. We just wanted to talk to you. You can’t. No. Sorry. We just want to… You can’t speak to us. Kallo and all of the inspectors at the European Championships are from the Hungarian Anti-Doping Agency, HUNADO. And who has hired this agency for decades? Tamás Aján, President of the International Weightlifting Federation, and his inner circle of colleagues. Close to the historic centre of the Hungarian capital, in Budapest’s station district, accommodated in an inconspicuous tenement house, is the seat of HUNADO, Hungary’s anti-doping organisation. And just a short walk away, around the corner, in the House of Hungarian Sports: the seat of the IWF. The International Weightlifting Federation and HUNADO are not only close in geographic terms. We notice that, despite the existence of testing organisations all around the globe, the IWF nearly always hires the Hungarians. Everywhere in the world. The IWF commissioned the small agency in Budapest to perform almost 8 out of 10 doping checks: 77 per cent. And it emerges that the IWF has only ever commissioned HUNADO officers to oversee World Championships. With just one exception. At the World Championships in Houston, Texas, in 2015. At that time, more lifters tested positive than ever before during championships. But this time, the United States Anti-Doping Agency USADA did the testing. This is how it happened: The IWF had originally planned that Hungary’s HUNADO would also be responsible for testing in Houston. As ever. But there was resistance. The local US Anti-Doping Agency USADA was wary, and insisted that it did the testing itself. We told the IWF essentially the same thing. We are an independent organisation. We have intelligence from the ground level. We want to test this event. It was way more painful than it needed to be. The IWF sent a letter of protest, seeking to minimise US influence and to deploy “HUNADO officers with experience in weightlifting”. President Tamás Aján himself made the request. But to no avail: primary responsibility was assumed by the US, and not Hungary. They had hotel rooms checked, where they found injecting equipment and took photographic evidence. By the end, the US Agency in Houston had caught 24 doping sinners at a stroke. So, I think this, to some extent proves the point of why we were so adamant about participating in the event. We weren’t gonna just test for show. Schwarzach in the Odenwald. One training centre that top German lifters like to use is “Kraftwerk”. Run by Oliver Caruso, himself a successful weightlifter, and then national coach for several years. Caruso has seen a lot of what goes on in the international scene. He recalls a conversation he had with a man from Moldova. It was about how to avoid testing positive in a doping test. He asked how much we had to pay to be clean in Germany. I said, of course, that it’s not possible in Germany. We can’t do that in Germany. And then he kind of laughed a bit because he said it was simply not possible for a clean athlete to win a medal. But yes, it is possible. And then he said that a national test in Moldova costs 60 dollars, or 200 dollars for an international test. I was extremely, extremely… I was extremely disappointed about what he had said. But is it true? Is it really possible to buy clean doping tests for doped athletes? Who is the man alleging that at least some officers are taking bribes? Definitely recognise him, that’s him. I recognised him straight away. Dorin Balmus. Team doctor to the Moldovan national team. Member of the support team of numerous medallists. Also in action at the 2019 World Championships. August 2019, we are in Chișinău, Moldova. We have managed to arrange a meeting with him. In a café in the centre of town. We use a hidden camera to film the meeting. Pretend to be managers of young lifters from Western Europe. We spend several hours talking to Dorin Balmus. He gets on to the subject of doping tests as a passing comment: Well, we were tested by anti-doping officers from Hungary. He remains rather vague during this discussion. We meet again in November. And this time he speaks openly. When anti-doping officers came, we got hold of doppelgängers – people who resembled our athletes. They provided clean urine. And we paid up. You got others to pee for you and paid the officers? Yes, you also pay for them not to look closely at your passport. And when they left, the people got as much money as they needed – and that was that They knew they could earn money here. Clean urine for cash? With doppelgängers? There is much to suggest that it was testers from Hungary’s HUNADO who were involved in this dirty game. Was that the case? The key to the answer lies in Cologne. Almost all doping samples from weightlifters throughout the world are tested for banned substances in this renowned laboratory. Cooperation with the IWF is usually good, says doping analyst Hans Geyer. “Where’s stanozolol? Or gluco… — compound? ” But something mysterious happened in 2015. IWF officers had tested athletes directly before the World Championships – the urine samples were checked in Cologne. Clean. But shortly after that, in tests carried out by the US Anti-Doping Agency at the World Championships, the very same athletes were caught. Traces of doping substances that must have been taken a while back were found in their urine. How come nothing was detected just before that in Cologne? It was, to us, an inexplicable finding. We later found a number of explanations. There were several manipulations, in other words, urine from other sources was used for out-of-competition testing, we managed to find this out from the biological passport and using DNA analysis. Urine from other sources smuggled in collection vessels for doping tests. Athletes acting with criminal intent – assisted by officers? Legal action brought to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport by the Moldovan Federation, but later withdrawn, revealed that Moldovan athletes were among those with suspicious tests. And the internal IWF documents prove that many of the tests where manipulation was suspected were carried out by IWF officers from Hunado. In 2014. How can an officer fail to notice that urine has been swapped. It is still a mystery to us, and perhaps they themselves are involved. We asked HUNADO in Budapest and the anti-doping agency in Moldova to explain these incidents. Both organisations stated that they were unaware of such occurrences. No response from Aján and his press people either. It’s the time when his Federation is keen to present weightlifting in a particularly favourable light. Pattaya, in Thailand. At the World Championships in September. HUNADO officers are in action. Nothing has changed. Aján appears to enjoy the show, is completely in his element at the highlight of the season. Never far from Aján’s side. Thailand’s Intarat Yodbangtoey, 1st Vice President of the IWF. A close companion of Aján for decades. We’ll come back to him later. We spend weeks before and after the World Championships travelling in Thailand, interested in one particular female lifter. We came across her during investigations on the internet. One of the few lifters from Thailand who were never caught doping. Rattikan Gulnoi. Bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympics. She now supposedly works in a gym, with branches in Bangkok and Pattaya. In the “Muscle Factory”. We manage to arrange an appointment with the top athlete. And set off for the branch in Pattaya. Prepare our hidden camera. And again pretend to be managers of European weightlifters. A translator assists us at the meeting with Rattikan Gulnoi. We say we are planning a training camp. To take place here in this gym. We say we need an entire support team, coaches, doctors and other assistants for young lifters. With a focus on doping. And Gulnoi talks – like no other Olympic medallist before her. I can draw up a nutrition plan for you You then have to adapt your training to the doping scheme. Substances from here are not very good. They’re usually from other countries But I can’t say much about that, it’s strictly confidential, I don’t want to disclose any national secrets. But then she goes into detail after all. We take stuff that can no longer be detected after 24 hours. Another substance is more effective, but can unfortunately be detected in tests up to three days later. And what about any side effects? Yes, there are some. A deeper voice, hair growth. When I took it, I had a jaw like a man and a moustache. Those responsible couldn’t care less about health. As long as the athletes win medals, even the young ones.” When did the youngest athletes start doping? At 13. In national competitions. At 13. By saying that Gulnoi, admits that child doping occurred in Thailand. How old were you when you started doping? I was 18, in 2011. So my body would endure it longer. That’s why I was able to compete in the national team for so long. She’s proud of her career. She became the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist retrospectively, because an athlete was later disqualified for doping. And what did you use in 2012? Anabolic steroids. Did you manage to pass the tests without any problems in 2012? Yes, twice … I believe I’m about the only one in Thailand who hasn’t yet been caught. D Don’t ask me how I managed it. How could you be so sure of not being caught. We stopped taking the substances early enough before the competition. The boss and the coach planned everything minutely. Inject, break, inject, break – that’s how it works. The most important minutes of her career: The 2012 Olympics in London This man – a member of her support team. Rattikan Gulnoi is later awarded bronze. Now we know that she was a cheat. Gulnoi did not answer questions about her statements in Pattaya following ARD inquiries. And the man who coaches her here: Thailand’s team chief Intarat Yodbangtoey. Acting in the role of IWF Vice President at the 2019 World Championships in Pattaya Aján’s deputy. We asked Yodbangtoey to comment. But got no answer. And from the President himself. not a word about the second most powerful man in his Federation. Aján consistently steers clear of us. Thank you very much. Now I’m in the World Championships. Just I’m running for another meeting. We will talk, okay? Not now. When we have finished the world championships – with pleasure! Let me to go, please. Let me to go! Or I take away your camera! Does the President have something to hide? Our investigations will reveal that not only doping tests were often dubious, but also the way in which the Federation dealt with athletes found guilty of cheating. Such as in 2013. Stars tested positive that year. But the Federation did nothing for months, didn’t suspend the athletes or list them in any statistics. The focus was on Azerbaijan – 18 lifters altogether. The internal documents show that the IWF knows all along about the positive tests. And yet the lifters are allowed to compete at World Championships and other events, winning medals. After doping. And Tamás Aján is always present, such as here at the IWF Grand Prix in Baku. Doping athletes are allowed to win before a home crowd. Aján poses with two of the cheats in this picture. It takes the IWF almost a year to announce bans for some of the athletes. Nobody has ever found out the reasons for the delays. We show the results of our investigations to Hans Geyer at the doping control laboratory in Cologne. He knows nothing about the Azerbaijan case – because the labs do not know the identities of tested athletes. Geyer learns from us that the doping cases detected in this lab went without consequences for a long time. That surprises me because, strictly speaking, we report our positive findings immediately. We have the analytical findings. If they’ve been doping but are still allowed to compete, that’s a disaster. In actual fact, if something like that happens, then there’s no point us doing doping analyses. Our request for information about incidents such as those involving the IWF and Aján is met with a general letter in which the President sweepingly denies any personal responsibility. On the contrary, Aján states that he and the IWF are “…100 per cent committed to protecting clean athletes.” In public, he stresses that he has been a representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency Foundation Board for years. I am dealing 24 hours daily with the doping problems. To make a clean weightlifting sport. But who can say who’s clean in this milieu, and who isn’t? The credibility crisis in this sport. Huge. A sport that demands extremely hard work from its athletes. The honest lifters among them: powerless against the cloud of suspicion hanging over their sport. Some athletes simply refuse to accept the demise of the sport. Jürgen Spieß, for example. He has been a member of the German national team for years, and competed in three Olympic Games. The German lifters have elected him as their spokesperson. Spieß says he does not dope. Winning against athletes who dope – nearly impossible, in his opinion. Sometimes when we sit together somewhere after the competition we cannot believe how casually and naturally some athletes from these countries with doping issues talk openly about doping. Because to them it is just as natural as to us that we do not dope. Yes, and that to us is what makes it so shocking. Spieß says that there is a lot of distrust and frustration within the scene. The worst thing about it is actually this, this defencelessness. You’re essentially at the mercy of the whole system because you know: okay, either I go along with the game, or I leave it be. The greatest resentment is reserved for everything that comes from the official side. It’s now … Nothing changes for the officials. And that is the problem. It’s actually: I’m not lifting against the competitor, the competitor is just the number. I’m lifting against the system of the country in question. 192 countries are represented in the IWF. Many of them do not even have an independent anti-doping agency. External critics repeatedly call for weightlifting to be kicked out of the Olympics. IWF leaders agree under pressure in 2019 to give up responsibility for the Federation’s anti-doping tests. An agency close to the IOC took charge. But continues to hire HUNADO. Only a few individuals dare to ask critical questions. There appears to be barely any interest in a strange business practice. Aján’s Federation earns millions from doping – owing to special IWF rules. National federations have to pay a fine for doping violations in their country. A strong source of income for the IWF. The International Federation cashes in for every cheat it catches – as these internal documents show. Sometimes 200,000 or even 500,000 dollars a year, depending on the number of doping athletes. Only national federations that pay up are allowed to compete again. The sale of indulgences for entire countries. There are anomalies regarding these payments: it seems that they are not always transferred, but paid in cash. A letter from the head of the Ukrainian Federation from 2009. He complains about the disproportionately high fines – paid to Aján in person. “We paid all this money to President Tamas Ajan always in cash, as it was his request” We asked Aján in writing to comment on this, too – no response. Nor on other dubious transactions, either. The year 2013, for example. This IWF document shows that some countries, such as Azerbaijan, were evidently in arrears with the payment of their doping fines in this year and others. Azerbaijan was supposed to pay up 500,000 dollars for 2013. But Azerbaijan is not included in a later list of payments for 2013. So were no payments made at all? In any case, Azerbaijanis were allowed to continue competing unimpeded. The question is: Did somebody in the IWF secretly abolish the fine for Azerbaijan? Or was it an accounting error? Or was money paid, possibly in cash, somewhere else other than onto IWF accounts? We asked the Azerbaijan Federation, external IWF accountants and the IWF itself for answers – to no avail. Aján remains silent on virtually all of the question we put to him. The octogenarian has been President since the year 2000. There is no restriction on term of office or on age. Rare images from a meeting with staff at IWF headquarters – Hungarian television recordings. Among them: Aján’s son-in-law. The President created the position of IWF Director General especially for him. Tamás Aján formally holds an honorary office, as the elected President of weightlifters. And yet the IWF pays him compensation for expenses that is almost as high as the German Federal Chancellor’s salary – the equivalent of around 270,000 euros a year. He has a luxury property in the hills of the district of Buda. In seclusion. Public appearances are rare nowadays. He started outas a teacher of physical education in communist Hungary in the sixties. And then got into sports administration. A career with the ministry. He became a weightlifting official. First at the national level, then internationally. Was first Vice President of the IWF, then Secretary General, then President. Companions describe him as polite, amiable, resolute. Ajan is married and a father of three children for many years. Hungarian TV portrays him as a believing Christian. And gives him the opportunity to talk in detail in a portrait. I am a happy person, I do what I love, I have dedicated my whole life to this. Sports is fantastic, I can consider myself as a successful man. An official who is the guest of the great world leaders: of powerful politicians, crowned leaders – and the IOC and its German President Thomas Bach. Aján was a member of the International Olympic Committee for years. In Markt Wolnzach, north of Munich, we meet a man who sees Aján’s career in a completely different light. One of the very few in this sport who dare publicly criticise the IWF President is Christian Baumgartner, President of the German Weightlifting Federation. Aján stands for a system that, over a period of decades, has established doping in weightlifting and that has gone wrong for decades. Together, we give ourselves rules in order to hold a competition that is clean, that is in line with our values, in a certain environment. And if the President does not embody those values, then that’s the worst case that can happen. He was elected onto the IWF Executive Board in 2013. Where he argued for transparency, robust doping controls. At the next election, he failed to secure sufficient votes. Basically, individuals and officials who are not in line with the President cannot come to anything in the Federation, it’s as simple as that. What kind of a culture has he established? A culture of corruption has set in It goes without saying that the systems needed to be able to cover up doping use only work with corrupt doings or corrupt systems. A doping testing system suspected of corruption, a lack of transparency and dodgy deals. All that has been afflicting weightlifting for decades. But that’s not all, by a long shot. We are here to follow up on a highly sensitive issue. A matter of secret accounts, millions that have disappeared. That hasn’t been cleared up to this day. He attempted it several years ago: Antonio Urso. The Italian has been a member of the IWF Executive Board since 2008, in his capacity as President of the European Weightlifting Federation. Urso shows us a document: it contains the first ever list, drawn up by internal auditors, of the amounts that the International Olympic Committee regularly transferred to the IWF… …money due to the IWF from marketing the Olympic Games. For years, much of this money was paid onto two bank accounts in Switzerland. Until 2009, these accounts and the assets held on them were not mentioned in the IWF balance sheets. Slush funds? It’s very interesting to understand that no one was informed about the different bank accounts . Only one people has the signature in bank account and this people was Tamás Aján. Urso and others couldn’t believe it: several millions were missing. Never we received one document of the these two banks about the movement of money inside and outside of the bank account. So it’s complicated for us to understand where is the money and who uses this money, and why weightlifting misses this money. Presumably, only one person can solve this mystery. An audio recording was leaked to the ARD doping editorial team. A meeting between Aján, members of the Executive Board and new auditors who had discovered the Swiss accounts. A participant confirmed the authenticity of the recording, which Aján is supposed to have had made. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to welcome all of you again …” Impressions from the 22 September 2009. IWF headquarters in Budapest. The auditors request information from Aján about the Swiss accounts. The President makes it clear from the start: this must not cause a great stir! If we make any big problem, it’s could make a dangerous situation for the weightlifting sport. And therefore the most important is the unity and the strength … the unity and the peace. This is the most important! Tamás Aján says that the money on the Swiss accounts is intended as an emergency reserve for the Federation. It’s very easy to spend money, but very difficult to make one dollar. […] Gentlemen, I would like to tell you that I never expected any thanks that we have nearly 19 million dollars But I would like to tell you this: This is very difficult to make money. […] But the auditors want to know why the IOC millions are stashed on secret accounts? Why does the money not appear in the balance sheets? The auditors question him persistently. In the annual budget must be including all the amount that that International Federation have, because in this budget, annual budget, we receive Olympic Revenue. […] You must explain to us what happened! … Because […] this is my request from you Gentlemen, I don’t want to go back but this was a very hard accusation. But I absolutely have to refuse. […] Because I’m working 45 years in the Hungarian sport and in the international sport, and never before somebody accused me on this way. Aján fails to provide a convincing answer. Most of the officials leave it at that, too. The affair appears to be closed. But some back then did not tolerate the fact that millions of Federation money was unaccounted for. Estimated very conservatively, at least 5.5 million US dollars, but if you consider interest at that time, seven to eight million US dollars were probably not declared. You do not know to this day where the money has gone? No. Simply gone… Yes. Inexplicably gone. I write to the IOC and I said ‘your money is missing’ and they answered me ‘this is an internal problem’. This is unacceptable. This is like to say ‘I don’t want to have any responsibility, what the IF do, is for me okay. This is anarchy not democracy. Were criminal proceedings never brought? No. Why not? Good question. It’s just not the done thing in sport to pursue criminal charges for such things. It’s simply not done? You just don’t do that. Basel. The registered office of the International Weightlifting Federation is in Switzerland. We want to know: Is the case of the secret accounts and the missing millions a criminal offence? We commission the University of Basel to draw up a legal expert report. Mark Pieth. Professor of Criminal Law. An anti-corruption expert. Pieth has experience with the big players of international sport, chaired the Independent Governance Committee of the international football association FIFA, complained in this position of corruption and a lack of transparency, then quit. Pieth and his staff reviewed the IWF documents for us with regard to the missing millions What I’ve seen here appears to be to be very, very audacious. More audacious than anything I’ve seen at FIFA. FIFA would not have gone about it so crudely. Several weeks’ work later, the Swiss criminal law expert’s report is complete. We have established that there are initial grounds for suspicion for two so-called offences. First, we have incorrect attestation. That is a kind of document forgery, the private falsification of documents. That’s what occurs when balance sheets are drawn up incorrectly. It’s a serious offence. Punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment. And then there could be minor management fraud. That’s … when the company no longer has the possibility to access it. And the criminal law experts believe there may be a third possible offence under Swiss law: embezzlement. Enrichment from the Federation budget. Offences that, according to Mark Pieth, have not yet lapsed. He concludes: So I assume, on the basis of these documents, that there is a serious suspicion against Tamás Aján, so-called initial grounds for suspicion. And since these are criminal offences liable to public prosecution, the Swiss authorities ought to take action. A President, a Federation, a sport. Suspected: Corruption. Slush funds. Manipulation. Nepotism. Cheating in sport. Child doping. An Olympic sport, rich in tradition, is threatened with ruin. And reigning over all this, decade after decade: Tamás Aján, the Lord of the lifters. Almost all of the documents on which this film is based have been available to the International Olympic Committee for years. Tamás Aján is an honorary member of the IOC. It is likely that he will run for President of the International Weightlifting Federation once again.

About the Author: Garret Beatty

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