Only a few days have passed since the IWF Executive Board (EB) appointed me as Interim President, but already I am happy to be able to report on some key progress. It is very much apparent we have no time to lose when it comes to delivering progress in vital areas of anti-doping and governance reform. The IOC has made it clear to us that how we act now will directly affect weightlifting’s place on the Olympic Programme for Paris 2024.
Throughout my involvement in this sport, the welfare of weightlifters has been my absolute priority. That will not change. It is up to all of us to now move the situation forward and secure the possibility for our young lifters to take their place on the Olympic platform.
As the fourth IWF President within six months, I am very much aware that different people have different versions of recent events. Ursula Papandrea has, for example, voiced criticism. The EB has already addressed a number of the issues she raised with the IOC, while concentrating on moving weightlifting forward.
As you can imagine, these initial days have been filled with triage – prioritising the urgent issues. Of most importance has been the confirmation that any changes to the Olympic Qualification System that might become necessary on account of COVID-19 will be entirely consistent with the principles already agreed, notably those around clean sport.
We have moved quickly to further consolidate the independence and professionalism of anti-doping efforts in international weightlifting, by finalising a contract to extend our partnership with the International Testing Agency (ITA) to the end of 2024. The ITA is also following up on the cases revealed by the investigation carried out by Professor Richard McLaren and his team. We have encouraged and empowered the ITA to be as transparent as they can with this process.
Deadlines, meanwhile, can be helpful in focusing minds and ensuring accountability. So we have been happy to notify Member Federations of a Constitution Reform Congress to be held on 24th and 25th March 2021 in Lausanne, and understand that Swiss law would allow for this to take place in a hybrid online / offline format if necessary on account of the pandemic. Similarly, we have notified members of an Electoral Congress to take place in the same location and in the same way on 26th and 27th March.
To satisfactorily complete the task of renewing our governance framework and policies in time for a March Congress will require great commitment and also independent professional expertise. Fortunately, the IWF is able to call on this in the form of external legal and governance experts as members of the Reform and Governance Commission and as members of the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission. The EB is moving quickly to ensure the right people are appointed, on the understanding that bringing in outside experts was a key part of the way we successfully satisfied the IOC’s previous concerns on anti-doping.
As the EB carries out this work for reforming the IWF, we must also maintain our focus on competition and development. We would like to take a moment to recognise the efforts of so many lifters and coaches to keep improving throughout the pandemic. And we would like to recognise the efforts of so many clubs to continue providing opportunities for our young lifters. Clearly these efforts are paying dividends, in the form of record entries for our first Online Youth World Cup, to be held from 11 to 18 November. More than 450 lifters from more than 60 countries are entered, effectively demonstrating the next generation’s strength in numbers.
Much more progress will be required in the coming months, of course. We are committed to delivering that progress. Thank you for your support.
Dr. Michael Irani
IWF Interim President
IWF General Secretary