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  • Weightlifting President Says Reforms Coming


    11/12/20

    (ATR) The complicated process of rebuilding the International Weightlifting Federation is underway, interim president Michael Irani tells Around the Rings.

    Michael Irani has been a part of the IWF medical committee since 1992. (IWF)
    “The results of governance reform aren’t immediately apparent,” Irani says.

    He spoke shortly after IOC Pres. Thomas Bach said that the troubled Federation seems to be making progress on the fight against doping but that progress with other aspects of reform involving governance and ethics was more ambiguous.

    The IWF is under watch by the IOC after years of chronic doping that have led to dozens of disqualifications and medal reallocations at the Olympics. Adding to the challenges the Federation is facing are suspicions of financial crimes involving former president Tamas Ajan. He was removed as president earlier in the year after a documentary by German TV channel ARD uncovered evidence of mishandled money into the millions. Noted investigator Richard McLaren issued a report for IWF that has raised more questions about Ajan’s tenure at the Federation as secretary general and eventually president. This week a report from ARD journalists says the FBI is following U.S, connections on the trail of cash.

    “These seem like insurmountable problems. Our former president Tamas Ajan had been with the federation for 40 years. So there’s a lot of stuff we needed to catch up on,” Irani says.

    So far, the IOC has issued only warnings to the Federation. Speaking at a news conference November 11 following the monthly meeting of the IOC Executive Board, Bach said that results from the Tokyo Olympics will help determine whether steps would be taken against weightlifting applicable to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

    Irani, a British physician who chairs the medical committee for the Federation, was drafted into service last month as interim president. He was chosen after the previous interim president, Ursula Papandrea of the US, was ousted on a vote of no-confidence. Under IWF rules, her successor was a first vice president, in this case the president of the Thailand national federation, one of a dozen national federations plagued by doping.

    IWF needs improvement in multiple areas to avoid potential sanctions from the IOC. (Global Athlete)
    After the uproar his selection created, Irani two days later was named to replace the Thai official. Such is the complicated web that Irani and colleagues are trying to untangle ahead of a Congress scheduled for next March to adopt a new constitution and elect new permanent leaders.

    Irani tells ATR that the federation is working closely with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which represents the sports on the summer program. ASOIF has developed a ranking system that evaluates the governance of the federations and can provide advice on how to improve.

    Irani says he believes weightlifting is taking the right path for change but that it won’t be instantaneous.

    “It takes time to take effect. We have a proper governance group formed with three lawyers. In the ethics, another group of lawyers, five of them are at work,” Irani says.

    The disciplinary and ethics commission, the first ever for the Federation was named this week. In late October the governance panel was named and has already had its first meeting.

    “We have a few quandaries to deal with. We have one member of the executive committee who as head of the national federation for the past four years appears to have ended the country’s problems with doping in weightlifting. From 10 positive cases before, they have zero now. This is someone who has made a good impact but do we have to remove him? That’s among the questions the lawyers are working on,” Irani says.

    Irani says weightlifting athletes and their coaches will be in the spotlight in Tokyo. He says they will be responsible for the image of weightlifting as the IOC considers the future of the sport in the Olympics.

    “There are two kinds of doping athletes. First there are the ones who do this willfully. We have to get rid of those. Second, there are athletes who go because of the coach, trainer. Who do we sanction? Is it the coach, the national federation officials? This is what we have to sort out,” Irani says.

    He says that his colleagues on the IWF are determined to make changes.

    “I would love to be able to come to you in March, in July after the Olympics to say that we’ve got it right. It happens because you make it happen”.

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.
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