The Russia’s Weightlifting Federation, under ts President Maxim Agapitov, right, has drawn up an athlete declaration and proposed to the IWF that competitors from all nations should sign it ©Twitter

Russia’s Weightlifting Federation (RWF) has drawn up an athlete declaration and proposed to the sport’s governing body that all weightlifters from all nations should sign it "in order to follow the principles of equality and non-discrimination."

It follows the refusal by Russian weightlifters to sign a declaration put forward by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) as a condition of allowing them to compete as neutrals in qualifying events for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

That document, claimed the RWF President Maxim Agapitov, was a result of the IWF’s "strange and selective" concerns about the war in Ukraine while it ignored other conflicts.

Athletes from Belarus accepted the conditions and are competing as neutrals in Olympic qualifying, as are athletes from both countries in a number of other sports including, cycling, judo and tennis.

So far, no Russian weightlifters signed the declaration, however, so no Russian neutrals feature in the qualifying rankings for Paris 2024, nor will they lift at the IWF World Championships which are due begin in Saudi Arabia next Monday (September 4).

Agapitov continues to criticise the IWF and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for "violating the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement."

He said, "Our athletes are ready to participate in competitions under terms of admission equal for all participants.

"But they are not ready to accept the discriminatory declaration…  such criminal humiliation of athletes must not be allowed to become a practice.

"Russian weightlifters have refused to betray the Olympic principles in exchange for admission to the World Championship and qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris."

The Russians claim the IWF is “ignoring the fate of thousands of athletes around the world” while focusing only on the Ukraine war and is simply doing what the IOC tells it to do.

Athletes who wish to compete as neutrals must declare that they do not support the war and that they have no links to any military or state security bodies, and they must agree to ongoing "eligibility checks."

In a letter to the IWF, Agapitov wrote he was concerned by "the indifference of the IWF regarding the fate of athletes" from more than 20 countries - Afghanistan, Vietnam, Guatemala, Grenada, Indonesia, Yemen, Iraq, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Somalia, Syria, El Salvador and the former Yugoslavia.

"These countries were bombed by NATO led by the USA," Agapitov said.

"But you still insist that 'the concern' is only about the situation in Ukraine.

"Since there were and are no reasons for the Russian weightlifters to be banned, the IWF has to act under the pressure of the policies of Western countries and violate the age-old principles of the sports movement.

"The IWF recommendation not to allow athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport to participate in international competitions indicates a strong political commitment and violation of the principles of the Olympic movement.

"Participation conditions do not comply with the rules of the Olympic Charter or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"This has an extremely negative impact on weightlifting in general."

Agapitov said he had not had a reply to specific questions about the "neutral athlete" conditions imposed in May by the IWF, 15 months after Russia and Belarus had been excluded in the initial stages of the Ukraine war.

The RWF was "ready to offer its version of the declaration for signing by every weightlifter in every country, in order to follow the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

"We announce our intention to publish … a constructive version of the declaration that can be considered for signing by the parties involved."

The RWF declaration is "guided by the principles of Olympism, peace, justice, respect, and equality."

It requires athletes to "promote a culture of peace and understanding within the worldwide Weightlifting Family," respect human rights and freedoms, oppose discrimination and respect fellow athletes.

Signatories "pledge to work in good faith with fellow competitors and all other members of the worldwide Weightlifting Family united in our efforts to ensure that the sport of weightlifting remains a driving force for the best progress of humankind."

Russian weightlifters won 11 gold medals at the CIS Games in Minsk earlier this month, but are set to miss out on Paris 2024 qualifying events ©CIS Games
Russian weightlifters won 11 gold medals at the CIS Games in Minsk earlier this month, but are set to miss out on Paris 2024 qualifying events ©CIS Games

Agapitov also made public the IWF’s latest response to his questions, dated July 23.

In a letter to Agapitov jointly signed by President Mohamed Jalood and general secretary Antonio Urso, the IWF said it was "striving to develop and promote weightlifting in the spirit of the Olympic Charter and is aligned with the Olympic values.

"It was in this spirit that the IWF Executive Board decided, on 12 May 2023, to open the possibility for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in IWF competitions as neutral athletes.

"The IWF Executive Board took note of the IOC recommendations… and made an independent decision ensuring that the rules and requirements which were put in place were not prohibitive in any way and were carefully crafted to ensure that no undue constraints would be applied on athletes.

"In this respect, the focus of our policy was a position of ‘abstention,’ far from expressing political views or siding with government, and care was taken not to put anyone in contradiction with legal requirements which they have to observe as citizens of their respective countries.

"As such, the policy does not force the athletes to 'express political views'as you claim.

"As a condition to their participation, the athletes are simply requested to abstain from expressing support to the war.

"Since you are referring several times to the Olympic values, we can rightly assume that the expression of support to war does rightly not belong thereto.

"The successful entering and participation of Belarusian athletes in the IWF Grand Prix in Havana, Cuba [in June] illustrates that the IWF policy is indeed achieving its purpose of allowing athletes’ participation.

"Russian athletes had exactly the same opportunity.

"We regret that they were not entered by your Federation in the same manner.

"In this respect, we also note that in other sports in respect to which similar requirements apply, Russian athletes are actually participating in international competition.

"At this stage, we can only confirm that Russian athletes continue to be welcome to participate in any IWF coming competition provided the requirements set out in IWF regulations and policies are met."

The IWF did not wish to comment on Agapitov’s proposal for a "universal" athlete declaration.

Russia’s weightlifters competed at the second CIS Games in Belarus earlier this month, where they won 11 gold medals, but have not competed in an IWF event since the conflict in Ukraine began.