Tamás Aján, left, and Antonio Urso are two of three men alongside Nicu Vlad who are expected to challenge for the IWF President role ©IWF

Two of the men aiming to unseat the most powerful figure in world weightlifting want the sport’s governing body to give control of its anti-doping programme to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Antonio Urso, the Italian President of the European Weightlifting Federation, and former Olympic champion Nicu Vlad, from Romania, are seen as the strongest challengers to Tamás Aján to take control of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF). 

Both men are standing against Aján in the Presidential election due to take place in Bangkok on May 30.

Hungarian Aján, 78, has been general secretary or President of the IWF since 1976. 

He had been expected to step down this year, having said this would be his final term when he defeated Urso by 80 votes to 55 in the 2013 election.

"No one man can stay in charge for more than 40 years, whoever he is," said Urso, who compared Aján’s longevity to that of Sepp Blatter at FIFA and pledged to introduce a three-term limit for the roles of President and general secretary should he win in Bangkok. 

"There is a need for teamwork and, in particular, for change."

Of the many changes he advocates, handing over control of the anti-doping programme to WADA is the one that would gain most attention outside the sport.

Vlad also favours such a move. 

He pointed out that there would be practical difficulties with WADA taking over, but he added: "We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

"This can be done and I believe in it."

Along with Antonio Urso, Romanian Nicu Vlad,  seen here competing for Australia, believes weightlifting's anti-doping programme should be run by WADA ©Getty Images
Along with Antonio Urso, Romanian Nicu Vlad, seen here competing for Australia, believes weightlifting's anti-doping programme should be run by WADA ©Getty Images

In his campaign pledges, Urso, 55, said he wanted more suspensions of coaches and doctors who work with doping cheats. 

He said it was "neither ethical nor correct" to leave anti-doping in the sport’s own hands.

Urso is also campaigning for a globally recognised coaching licence, continental centres of excellence, and improvements in governance and transparency. 

He advocates a complete overhaul of communications within weightlifting, which has suffered a damaging loss of credibility in recent years because of doping, most notably by former Soviet Bloc countries.

Vlad, 53, said the two most important things for him were unity and education. 

“We need to keep countries together,” said Vlad. 

“Most of the continents are split.” 

On doping, he said educating coaches and athletes was his top priority.

During Aján’s tenure, there have been significant changes, among them the addition of women’s weightlifting to the Olympic programme, and China’s rise to become a weightlifting superpower. 

The introduction of a new weight category this year means the sport is gender equal, with eight medal events for both men and women.

But Urso and Vlad are among many within weightlifting who believe the bad news has outweighed any positive publicity, especially in the past two years.

At the 2015 IWF World Championships in Houston, the winners of 19 medals were among 24 lifters who tested positive. 

Weightlifting then produced 49 positives - half the all-sports total - in the retesting of Olympic samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Some of weightlifting’s biggest names were revealed to be cheats, among them the record-breaking Ilya Ilyin from Kazakhstan - the nation with the worst doping record.

Tamas Ajan has been either secretary general or President of the IWF since 1976 ©IWF
Tamas Ajan has been either secretary general or President of the IWF since 1976 ©IWF

Urso claimed doping was the "cancer" of weightlifting and that the sport must "eliminate and destroy it".

He said the number of positives, 606 since 2003, would be even worse if there were more out-of-competition testing.

"For reasons beyond my comprehension, the IWF obstinately insists on doing the majority of tests [71 per cent] in competition," he said. 

"If the majority of tests were done out of competition the figures would surely be staggering. 

"The IWF’s anti-doping programme is not a serious battle against the phenomenon of doping."

Other key aims for Urso include the setting up of an international coaches forum and international academies in all continents.

Coaching licences would be issued, and those whose athletes test positive would have theirs withdrawn.

Vlad and Urso both agreed that weightlifting needed more openness and transparency in its dealings. 

"A new policy of transparency and full access to the IWF would appear simple," Urso said. 

"But it means a true revolution of participation as we know it today."

Vlad was an Olympic gold medallist at Los Angeles 1984 and a multiple world and European champion. 

He spent five years in Australia and won a Commonwealth Games gold for Australia at Victoria 1994 before becoming national coach and a top administrator back in Romania.

Urso was an Italian champion nine times between 1977 and 1989 and became national women’s coach. 

He is a professor of sports science and author of seven books on weightlifting.

There are four others standing for the Presidency, though none is seen is a serious rival to Aján, Vlad and Urso, who has sent his campaign documents to all National Federations. 

They are Qatar's Mohamed Yousef Al-Mana, Ma Wenguang of China, Iranian Ali Moradi and Monico Puentevella of the Philippines.

The candidates represent nations responsible for 65 of those 606 positives since 2003. 

The list is - Iran 24, Romania 18, China 9, Hungary nine, Qatar four and Italy one.

There have been none from the Philippines.