Heavy Burden for Weightlifting Leaders: Q&A with Michael Irani

(ATR) Interim Pres. Michael Irani discusses efforts to defuse "explosive" situation ... Exclusively

(ATR) International Weightlifting Federation leaders and their members are attempting to resolve what has been labeled an "explosive" situation by reaching agreement on a new constitution.

IWF interim president Michael IraniThe IOC has warned the federation that it could lose its place on the 2024 Olympic program if it doesn’t get its house in order through new legislation and governance reforms.

An IWF Constitutional Congress – initially scheduled for late March – will be held virtually on June 30, followed by a presidential election to replace interim president Michael Irani at the end of October.

The draft constitution was completed by the IWF appointed Reform and Governance Commission (RGC) on Feb. 28. The 126-page document subsequently was sent to all IWF constituents and additional stakeholders to get their feedback.

The IWF says responses were received from 50 of its 193 members, and included specific proposals from WADA, ITA and ASOIF.

The task of reviewing comments and proposals has been assigned to a task force led by Francois Carrard, former IOC director general. He is now the task force coordinator, along with Athletes’ Commission chair Sarah Davies and EB members, assisted by the IWF Legal Department and senior staff.

A decision whether to approve the draft constitution, either in its original form or as amended, will be determined by the full IWF Congress on June 30. It will be the responsibility of the executive board to explain, guide and ultimately convince at least 75% of the national associations to support and vote for the reforms.

In an exclusive interview with Around the Rings, Irani refuted a recent media report that the independent RGC was ditched by the IWF before it completed its work. Instead he says the body finished its appointed task and that its mandate expired at the end of February.

Around the Rings: Can you discuss the importance of the June 30 IWF Congress and what you hope and to expect to happen in regards to the acceptance and perhaps amending of the Draft Constitution?

Irani: What must be kept in mind is that the final decision to approve the Draft Constitution, either in its original presentation or as amended, remains in the sole competence of the IWF Congress in June 30, 2021, meaning of course, that it is not the EB which continues "to undervalue the need to fully commit to independent-led reform", but rather for the EB to explain and ultimately to convince the 75% of the member federations required to support and vote for the reforms.

I contend, that is what democracy and transparency is all about and if we are not mindful of those principles then we have been wasting our time, efforts and resources.

ATR: Can you elaborate upon the process of the draft document being sent to the various weightlifting and Olympic stakeholders, and some of the responses and feedback that were received?

Irani: The draft document was sent to all IWF constituents and other stakeholders including the IOC, WADA, ITA, ASOIF seeking comments and proposals and we are happy to have received responses from over 50 of our members and including proposals from WADA, ITA and ASOIF. The responses and feedback are many and varied and are being collated and reviewed presently as stated above.

ATR: Can you unequivocally refute the recent claims in select media that the IWF EB ditched the Reform and Governance Commission before it officially completed its work?

Irani: The IWF Executive Board did not decide to "dismantle" the RGC. The fact is that its mandate was to expire at the end of February 2021.

The adoption of a new Constitution goes through three phases: elaboration by a Commission; preparation and validation of proposals to the Congress and deliberation and vote in front of the Congress.

In that sequence of events, the RGC was originally meant to be in charge of the first phase. It performed its mandate remarkably so that for the second phase, the IWF Executive Board essentially has to prepare the necessary documentation for the Congress – which is itself a huge task because of time constraints – without changing the text of the document prepared by the RGC. As to the third phase (deliberation and vote in front of the Congress), the IWF intends to invite the RGC Independent Members to attend the Congress and be available if requests for clarification are needed.

ATR: What are your primary concerns and worries about the current turmoil within the IWF and what needs to happen to end this "civil war" to allow the federation to move forward successfully in a positive and productive manner?

Irani: There is turmoil within the sport presently. I guess there are a lot of political undertones as well, but I believe there is a lot of goodwill amongst our people and I would hope that egos and self-interest are left at the front door for the good of the sport.

ATR: Has it been officially determined when the next IWF presidential election will take place? What are your plans as interim president?

Irani: The Electoral Congress is scheduled at the end of October 2021, and in the meantime, I will exercise my duties as interim president to the best of my ability.

ATR: Perhaps most importantly, what do you believe needs to happen to appease the IOC concerns about weightlifting’s status in the Olympic movement and avoid sanctions or dismissal from the Olympic program for Paris 2024?

Irani: The IOC, I am sure, does not want to see any sports in turmoil. I have faith in our people to find a way through and work together in harmony for the interest of weightlifting.

Interview conducted by Brian Pinelli

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