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  • Weightlifters Caught in Federation Feud


    (ATR) The recent chaos surrounding the leadership of the International Weightlifting Federation has left the athletes wondering what it means for them.

    Travis Cooper competing (USOPC)
    They want to know whether they will be able to compete at the Olympics if the IWF is not active in the effort to clean up the sport and its own house.

    "It’s definitely a worry, especially for coaches and athletes that are younger folks that have aspirations of competing in the Olympics in the future,” Travis Cooper, the USA Weightlifting Elite Athlete Director and USOPC Athlete Advisory Council Representative, tells Around the Rings.

    The IWF is currently on its third interim president of 2020 following the official resignation by Tamás Aján in April.

    The federation, already facing serious allegations concerning its integrity, removed interim president Ursula Papandrea on Oct. 13. The IOC said it was "very worried" about that decision and said it was "highly concerned" when the IWF board of directors chose IWF medical director Michael Irani to replace her on an interim basis three days later. 

    The IOC also raised the question of the future for weightlifting at the Olympics in its statement.

    Cooper says there is a rift between the members of the IWF, as some wish to change the image of the sport in the future.

    “What’s happening is you are having a battle between countries in favor of a clean sport versus those who are willing to turn a blind eye to doping,” he states.

    Ursula Papandrea was a former USA Weightlifting president. (ATR)
    Many people who were part of the call to oust Papandrea did so in an attempt to try to change qualification procedures so their athletes could participate, even though they have tested positive for doping.

    The IWF is already on thin ice with the IOC due to the corruption, mismanagement and anti-doping deceptions during Aján’s 20 year tenure as federation president.

    The scope of the problem was revealed in June when anti-corruption expert Richard McLaren released his report following a four-month investigation.

    Papandrea had been brought in to lead the reform process and put the IWF back on solid footing with the IOC.

    “I think no matter where you stand, you can just see there's an extreme amount of disorganization and frustration among the folks who were causing the corruption in the first place,” Cooper said.

    Cooper believes a call for an athlete council at the executive level would be most beneficial for those wanting change in the sport.

    “So the voice of the athletes can be heard, and the IWF can take in consideration what the athletes actually want around the world. And not just a subset of athletes from the executive board members from countries that have systematic doping.”

    USA Weightlifting currently leads the charge in making a push for the athlete council. It is asking all 187 member federations of the IWF to join with it in demanding that the IWF leadership convene an Extraordinary Congress in November.

    Twenty percent of member federations (38 of 187) need to sign on to force the special counsel and according to Cooper, the number is sitting above 30 right now, so the call for an extraordinary congress in November is looking plausible.

    “I think the athletes just want a fair shot. They also want their sport to remain at the Olympics. I mean, that’s the biggest thing.”

    Homepage photo: IWF

    Written and reported by Jose Chavez

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