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Weightlifting chiefs must resign if sport is to have Olympic future: USA CEO

By Pirate Irwin, AFP Published Aug 20, 2021 4:13 pm

Weightlifting is all but certain to be removed from the Olympic Games program unless the present leadership stands down, USA weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews told AFP.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made clear its displeasure with the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) board, which changed their Olympic Charter at the end of the Tokyo Games to address the issue.

The power to remove sports from the programme now lies with the IOC Executive Board and although the final vote goes to the IOC Session, it is seen as largely a rubber-stamping exercise.

"It is like a child. If they are naughty they have to regain trust. Our word is no longer our bond with the IOC," Andrews told AFP.

The consequences would be devastating.

Weightlifting was in the first modern Games in 1896 and has been a permanent fixture -- despite a dope-tainted history -- since 1920. 

The seriousness of the situation facing the sport was highlighted when IOC vice-president John Coates told InsideTheGames the IWF had been "given very specific recommendations that have not been followed."

Andrews hopes the leadership -- headed by interim president Mike Irani -- will step aside at the IWF Congress in Doha on Aug. 29.

If they dig their heels in then the IOC Executive Board could decide to suspend the sport at their next meeting on Sept. 8.

"The problem I have is the IWF has not heeded the advice from the IOC," Andrews told AFP by phone from Colorado.

"They (the IOC) have repeatedly been clear about this 'that you (the leadership) have lost our trust after writing to you (IWF) five times and you have not heeded that advice'."

The IOC's patience has all but run out with the leadership despite the resignation in April last year of long-standing president Tamas Ajan.

"Some are in the McLaren report (delivered by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren last year pin-pointing 40 positive doping controls that had been covered up by the IWF and Ajan), some are linked to doping issues and some annoyed the IOC," says Andrews explaining why the present board are in the IOC bad books.

'Ripping the carpet'
Andrews believes the sport is in the "last chance saloon" though he adds thanks to the weightlifters themselves -- "there is always a cornerstone moment in the sport at every Games".

It also has supporters in the IOC, notably Coates.

"It says a lot the IOC trotted out Coates publicly to say the changes to the IOC Charter were made for the IWF's purpose," said Andrews.

"Coates is seen as a supporter of weightlifting and he is not somebody who speaks to the media often, when he does it is with a sense of deliberacy.

"The IOC wants weightlifting in the Games. I believe that as I don't think they would have given us so many chances otherwise."

Andrews fears for the sport's future if the nightmare scenario comes to pass.

"If we were out of the Olympic Games it would all but destroy the sport globally," said the Briton, who has been in his role on a permanent basis since April 2016. 

"The majority of federations round the world rely on the Games for funding."

His greatest fear is the damage inflicted on the athletes themselves if there is no carrot of the 2024 Olympics in Paris dangled in front of them. 

"The consequences would be devastating," he said. 

"I think about if you are Team GB's Emily Campbell and won silver in Tokyo and USA medalists Katherine Nye (silver) and Sarah Robles (second successive bronze) you hope to go and do better in 2024 in Paris.

"This would be ripping the carpet from underneath them."

(Thumbnail and banner: Hidilyn Diaz at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics AFP file photo)