(ATR) Ursula Papandrea wants to complete her work in removing the “toxic culture” at the International Weightlifting Federation.
Ursula Papandrea was ousted by the IWF executive board in October. (ATR)
The former acting president of IWF announced on January 14 that she is bidding to become the next permanent president for the federation. Elections are scheduled for the end of March 2021.
The IWF executive board ousted Papandrea in October 2020 after she had served about six months as acting IWF president following the resignation of Tamás Aján in April amid allegations of doping and corruption.
The scope of the problem was revealed in June when anti-corruption expert Richard McLaren released his report following a four-month investigation.
A former president of USA Weightlifting, Papandrea had been leading reform efforts within the federation before the no confidence vote. She was replaced on an interim basis by IWF medical director Michael Irani, who said he will not be running for the position and would serve only until the elections are held.
Now Papandrea wants to finish what she started.
“When I took over as Acting President of the IWF, I knew some of the vital and necessary changes could not wait until a new permanent President was appointed.
“What I have discovered is a toxic culture of corruption, self-interest and doping that prioritizes maintaining the status quo.
“The governance of the IWF has tarnished the reputation of our great sport almost beyond repair and its Olympic status remains under threat.
“The current board comprises of members with a catalogue of misdemeanors, sanctions violations and red flags that lacks the genuine will to support the essential changes the organization needs in order to survive.
“Only when we remove those who have been complicit in corruption within the organization can weightlifting restore its integrity and rebuild its status in world sport.”
Papandrea outlined a series of measures to clean up the IWF. (Global Athlete)
Papandrea revealed a series of pledges as part of her platform to clean up the IWF. They include creating a professional Reform Commission appointed by and consisting only of Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) recommended members. The Reform Commission in turn would choose the members of a newly created Integrity Commission.
All board members would be subject to “professional and external vetting” by the Integrity Commission.
No board appointments or recommendations would be permitted in choosing members of all commissions dealing with ethics, discipline or judicial affairs. The appointees would have to be independent and external members with experience and expertise.
New anti-doping processes would be implemented to ensure independent and external anti-doping oversight with no IWF involvement.
Papandrea also wants to provide the Athletes' Commission with a clear process to comment and propose amendments to the Constitution.
“The lack of the athletes’ voice in the IWF’s governance has been an obvious and convenient omission for decades. Their exclusion hurts clean athletes and benefits those who have Board-level support and who may not follow the rules,” she said.
“I have a non-negotiable stance on doping and want strict anti-doping policies in place. I have seen how current practices protect many who have no respect for the rules.”
Interim IWF president Michael Irani (IWF)
Irani, in his end of year message, highlighted the efforts made under his watch since October. including the extension of the IWF’s anti-doping partnership with the International Testing Agency (ITA) through 2024. The ITA will investigate allegations made against the IWF by the McLaren Report and by WADA.
Irani also said the IWF’s Reform and Governance Commission “is making remarkable progress” in its efforts to present a new constitution and bylaws by a January 22 deadline. That will give federation members about two months before deciding whether to approve it at the Constitution and Electoral Congresses scheduled for late March.
Since he took over in October, Irani and the IWF have been working to quell International Olympic Committee concerns about both governance and anti-doping efforts in the sport.
The IOC said last month it took into account those issues when it reduced weightlifting’s quota for Paris 2024 to 120, 76 fewer than Tokyo 2020 and 140 fewer than Rio 2016. IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell added that weightlifting is not confirmed in the Paris program and “the IOC Executive Board continues to reserve the right to further review the place of weightlifting in Paris as things move forward”.
Written by Gerard Farek
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