Member federations call for IWF executive board to step down to keep the sport in the Olympics

USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews: “There appears to be an air of certainty at this stage that we have only until 7 September to save our sport’s place on the Olympic Program”.

(Global Athlete)
(Global Athlete)

Eight International Weightlifting Federation members are calling for the IWF leadership to resign in a last ditch attempt to keep the sport in the Olympic program for Paris 2024.

The national federations of the United States, Belgium, Germany, Fiji, New Zealand, Marshall Islands, Greece and Samoa as well as Sarah Davies, the British chair of the IWF Athletes Commission, said in a joint statement “The simple reality is that we have one month to save this original beloved Olympic sport, and we call upon the sport’s leadership to at this time put the sport above themselves.”

The renewed sense of urgency follows a decision by the IOC at its Session in Tokyo on Sunday to grant the IOC Executive Board the power to suspend a federation from the Olympic Program without Session approval if those sports ignore IOC directives or undermine the reputation of the Olympic Movement.

The next IOC Executive Board meeting is set for September 8.

In addition to the mass resignation of the IWF Executive Board, the federations also want all Continental presidents and the Commissions and Committees to step down.

Independent leadership would be put in place as an interim measure until new elections can be held.

The federations also want “any individual identified by the IOC, or mentioned in any ITA, WADA or McLaren report” to quit. That also applies to anyone in a leadership position at a member federation.

The group of federations also calls for “The passing of a new constitution with uncompromising eligibility criteria that ensure new leadership focused on good governance, athlete rights and a fair field of play as advised by independent experts” and “The implementation of all IOC requests detailed in various letters from the IOC.”

According to the statement, “the reality is that these are the only actions that will at this stage allow us any possibility of being present on the Paris 2024 program.”

IOC president Thomas Bach, in his press conference on August 6, signaled that the IWF was quickly running out of time, saying “we still need to see a culture change in this international federation”.

The IWF has been on the IOC’s radar for more than two years for governance and doping issues.

IOC vice-president John Coates, while not mentioning the IWF by name, cited federations that had disregarded specific recommendations from the IOC Executive Board as the reason for amending the Olympic Charter to strengthen the powers of the EB. The IWF is the only federation that currently fits that description.

IWF members failed to agree on a new constitution at a Congress in June, further delaying elections that were to have taken place in March. The Congress is due to resume for two days starting August 29 in Doha. At this point it appears mandatory that a new constitution that can pass muster with the IOC will need to be passed.

Phil Andrews, USA Weightlifting CEO (USA Weightlifting)
Phil Andrews, USA Weightlifting CEO (USA Weightlifting)

USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews has been working with the IOC in a bid to keep the sport in the Olympics.

“There appears to be an air of certainty at this stage that we have only until 7 September to save our sport’s place on the Olympic Program,” Andrews said.

“This IOC session saw charter changes made specifically for our sport. I want to speak frankly, we have to reform now or else and we have to see people place the sport over themselves in leadership positions. We have no choice,” Andrews said.

Andrews, who served as IWF Interim Deputy Director General last year before resigning in October when Ursula Papandrea was forcibly removed by the IWF Executive Board, added that IWF board member Maxim Agapitov’s successful appeal to CAS over the IOC’s decision to withdraw his accreditation only made matters worse.

As a result of the CAS decision, the IOC on Sunday also strengthened its rules on accreditation.

Around the Rings has contacted the IWF for comment and will update this story when we receive a response.