The IWF has ignored advice from independent experts to delay its elections ©IWF

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) is ignoring advice from independent reform experts to delay its elections, which are scheduled to take place in the last week of March.

Three highly qualified advisers, all of whom hold senior roles in other sports, believe that the IWF should first adopt a new Constitution, which would determine how many positions are up for election.

One well placed source said that if the dates remain as planned, and a new Constitution is adopted as proposed, twice as many Executive Board members as the IWF needs will be elected in March.

The same source also said that "at least six" candidates who have declared themselves for the elections may become ineligible if the date is moved back, because of strict vetting procedures that would apply under the proposed new Constitution.

Plans to have an Electoral Congress before the Constitutional Congress is "to put the cart before the horse" said Phil Andrews, chief executive of USA Weightlifting.

"The IWF should hold on any elections until it’s clear how the governance structure will work," he said.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, criticised weightlifting’s governance for the fourth time since October yesterday after the IWF changed its anti-doping rules.

The IOC has also expressed concerns about the IWF’s slow progress in governance reform and its reluctance to accept independent advice.

It also believes the Constitution should be adopted before, not after, the elections judging by comments made in October.

The IOC said in a statement that it had "strong concerns about the need for further progress to reform the IWF Constitution ahead of the potential IWF elections, and any lack of acceptance of independent advice in this procedure."

British Weight Lifting (BWL), which wants the entire IWF Board to resign, is also critical of the latest developments.

USA Weightlifting chief executive Phil Andrews has called on the IWF to delay its elections until it is clear how the governance structure will work ©Phil Andrews
USA Weightlifting chief executive Phil Andrews has called on the IWF to delay its elections until it is clear how the governance structure will work ©Phil Andrews

"I cannot believe there is such a lack of understanding," BWL’s chief executive Ashley Metcalfe said.

"How can you have elections before a new Constitution is in place?

"This is another example of the current Executive Board continually failing to listen, and putting themselves and their own interests ahead of what is best for the sport and the athletes."

Both the US and Britain believe the IWF moved the wrong event last week when it set a new, later date for the Constitutional Congress, which was originally scheduled to precede the Electoral Congress by two days.

They believe the elections should have been delayed instead.

Last week Darren Kane, the Australian lawyer who chairs the IWF Reform and Governance Commission (RGC), wrote to Interim President Mike Irani, general secretary Mohamed Jaloud and other Board members by email to express concerns held by him and the other two independent members of the Commission.

Two days later the IWF reacted not by pushing back the Electoral Congress as advised - it is still scheduled for March 26 and 27 - but by delaying the Constitutional Congress by a month, to April 24 and 25.

Kane’s letter has been seen by insidethegames.

It says: "In Part F of this email the independent members of the RGC explain some of the reasons why they together are of the considered opinion that the Electoral Congress should be delayed until later in 2021 - the independent members of the RGC are in agreement as to these issues."

Later, Kane writes: "One obvious issue which arises is that the IWF Constitution and by-laws establishes a structure and composition of the Executive Board which is distinctly different to the composition of the Executive Board under the new Constitution.

"Should the new Constitution be adopted at the Constitution Reform Congress, then (it) will commence in force instanter (ie immediately).

"If the Electoral Congress proceeds as planned, it will be necessary for the Executive Board to implement interim measures, so as to ensure that there is no crossover between the existing IWF Constitution and by-laws on the one hand, and the new Constitution on the other hand."

IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly voiced concern about the way weightlifting is governed ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly voiced concern about the way weightlifting is governed ©Getty Images

Although that last paragraph was written before the IWF moved back the Constitutional Congress, the point still applies.

Unless the elections are put back, anybody elected in the last week of March would - under the new Constitution - soon have to stand down.

Another election would be needed for what, according to the well-placed source, would be a much smaller Executive Board.

The only way to avoid the problem would appear to be moving the Electoral Congress to a later date, or rejecting the new Constitution as proposed.

Kane stresses that the IOC would be unlikely to object to a new date for elections, after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, "provided that the IWF could demonstrate that it is taking meaningful steps to ensure that (it) is promoting the adoption of the new Constitution at the Constitution Reform Congress."

Should the proposed new Constitution be rejected by Congress - at which all paid-up members of the IWF vote - it could be the final straw for the IOC, which has said weightlifting’s place in the Olympic programme is not guaranteed for the Paris 2024 Games.

Andrews said: "As President Bach’s latest comments made clear, the roll-back of anti-doping rules is an invitation to the IOC to remove us from the Olympic Games.

"Relaxing the anti-doping rules is perhaps the worst thing we could be doing right now, closely followed by what appears to be an Executive Board not willing to listen to the independent advisers that it has appointed itself.

"Having previously rejected experts in this same field, who have successfully gone through reforms with other international federations, they chose to appoint Mr Kane and two others and now they appear not to be listening to them either.

"The IOC has been clear that it wants to see true and meaningful reform of the IWF’s governance structure, and has also been clear that it wants to see continual progress on clean sport.

"At the moment we’re going backwards or staying static on both.

"If the sport is not willing to listen to the independent advice of people appointed by the Executive Board, it’s a fundamental issue to address."

Kane, who declined to comment, is a legal committee member of FINA, the governing body of swimming.

The other independent members are the Panamanian Damaris Itzel Young Aranda, who sits on the IOC Athletes' Entourage Commission and chairs the International Volleyball Federation Appeals Panel, and the World Athletics vice-president Ximena Restrepo of Colombia, who was an Olympic bronze medallist in the women's 400 metres at Barcelona 1992.

The IWF did not reply to questions put by insidethegames about the advice to move the date of the elections, or what course of action it would take if a new Constitution were to be adopted a few weeks after the elections.