Michael Irani, IWF interim president (IWF)
(ATR) After a bumpy and confusing week of official statements, public statements, dismissals, resignations and a new interim president, the case of the International Weightlifting Federation remains the center of media attention.
British doctor Michael Irani, named on an interim basis by the Executive Committee until March 2021, did not rule out the possibility of an "extraordinary Congress", in exclusive statements to Around the Rings.
"The IWF Constitution is clear: if 20% of our Member Federations ask for an extraordinary Congress, then one must be held within 90 days," says Irani, 71, head of the IWF Medical Committee.
"The IOC, however, has been clear that there should be a constitutional reform as well as elections and it is unrealistic to imagine that a new constitution could be ready in 90 days or less, which is why we have scheduled a Congress for March." Irani says.
Irani, with more than 30 years in the world of weightlifting and having been first elected to the IWF Medical Committee in 1992, was last week chosen interim president of the IWF in the fallout created by the ousting of former USA Weightlifting president Ursula Papandrea as interim boss by the federation's board of directors.
Initially, by statute, the place of Papandrea was occupied by the first vice president, the Thai Intarat Yodbangtoey, which further strained the environment given the sanctions for doping faced by the weightlifters of that Asian country. Less than 48 hours later Yodbangtoey resigned to make way for Irani.
Papandrea, in her capacity as Vice President, had taken over the interim presidency after Hungarian Tamás Aján resigned last April amid accusations of corruption.
Ursula Papandrea was ousted last week. (ATR)
In the midst of these events, the IOC said it was "very concerned" about her dismissal.
Olympic and sports authorities in the United States led by its national weightlifting federation voiced their opposition to the move.
The president of the Athletes Commission, Sarah Davies of Great Britain, also expressed her disagreement.
One of the members of the Executive Committee, the Italian Antonio Urso, announced his resignation shortly after having participated in the meeting of the IWF leadership where the fate of Papandrea was decided. Papandrea also resigned as vice president of the IWF.
The reasons behind the decision to remove Papandrea have not been clear publicly.
A European source close to the IWF leadership told ATR that last week the federation sent a report to update the IOC on the situation.
Around the Rings requested confirmation and reaction from the IOC on this alleged IWF report.
Irani did not refer to this possible report at any time in his contact with ATR.
Antonio Urso quit the IWF board. (Italian Weightlifting Federation)
Asked what messages he would send to President Thomas Bach to assuage the IOC, Irani said: “The IOC is understandably concerned about the need for governance reform.
“Our message is clear: you asked us to reform weightlifting's whole approach to anti-doping and we did so, going above and beyond expectations.
“So there is some cause for optimism that we can do the same on governance. And we are already delivering when it comes to the IOC's list of concerns.
“For example, the IOC asked for reassurances that the IWF remains committed to the agreed principles of the Olympic Qualification System and we have provided that reassurance.
"The IOC asked that we extend our agreement with the Independent Testing Agency and we are already doing so: all the way to the end of 2024."
Irani said he has spoken with the President of the IWF Athletes Commission.
“Listening carefully to weightlifters was a critical part of being a team doctor and it's something I will always continue to do.
"It's great that we now have an Athletes Commission filled of talented, thoughtful, and articulate weightlifters and I look forward to being engaged with them throughout the reform process."
Asked if Urso's resignation and his critical statements about the Executive Board surprised him, Irani replied:
“Antonio Urso was a member of the IWF Executive Board as a representative of the European Weightlifting Federation.
"It is my hope that, as with the last time he resigned, he will reconsider and rejoin the Board."
Irani said that “My priority now, as it always has been, is the success and wellbeing of weightlifters.
"The best way to support this success and wellbeing is to ensure continued opportunities for athletes to compete, including at the Olympic Games, and to ensure that the IWF is as effective as it can be in supporting their health and development," he added.
Homepage photo: Global Athlete
Written and reported by Miguel Hernandez
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