(ATR) The Chilean naturalization of world champion weightlifter Arley Mendez stirs controversy in the sport.
Mendez, a Cuban defector who became a Chilean citizen in May, won three gold medals in the 85 kilogram division at the World Weightlifting Championships last week in Anaheim, California.
However, Mendez’s eligibility for international competitions has been a point of contention due to a clause in the International Weightlifting Federation that stipulates an athlete must have endorsement from the National Weightlifting Federation in their country of origin.
"If the athlete cannot get the approval of the Member Federation he/she is currently representing, then the athlete has to wait for a period of one year (to be counted from the date of the request sent to the IWF for approval) before being automatically authorized to represent the new Member Federation," the IWF statutes read.
It was not until the last minute in Anaheim that Mendez was given the green light to compete in the world championship, thanks in part to the efforts of the Chilean Olympic Committee (COCH) and its President Miguel Mujica.
"Effectively, the President of the Chilean Weightlifting Federation, Mr. Italo Barattini, received a letter from his Cuban counterpart, Jorge Luis Barcelán, where he expressly authorized the athlete to compete for Chile, bearing in mind the fulfillment of the rules and bylaws of the International Federation on these matters," Mujica told Around the Rings.
"It took time but with the help of other leaders at the continental level it fortunately came to fruition."
Mendez’ participation in the championship was in question due to his disqualification from the Bolivarian Games just 12 days prior to the world championship in Anaheim. Mendez had been stripped of three gold medals at the event in Santa Marta, Colombia after Venezuela lodged a complaint about a rules violation.
The constitution for the Bolivarian Games states an athlete must have three years of citizenship before becoming eligible to compete for that country. Mendez never returned to Cuba following a victory at the 2013 Pan American Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile.
COCH President Mujica says the rule by the Bolivarian Sports Organization (ODEBO) does not agree with the Olympic Charter but adds Chile won’t appeal the disqualification from the event.
"Yes, we will call for the ODEBO statute to be modified so that it is in line with the Olympic Charter," Mujica told ATR. "If they live by this document, they shouldn’t require three years after receiving nationality, something that is in direct opposition to what the International Olympic Committee has regulated for nationalized athletes."
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Written by Miguel Hernandez
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