The International Weightlifting Federation has officially started a review of its bodyweight categories ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has officially started a review of its bodyweight categories as the world governing body looks to head towards a new era for the sport. 

The IWF Sport Programme Commission (SPC) appears to be moving towards a complete overhaul of the bodyweight categories, which have remained the same for nearly 20 years but have been changed before, most notably in 1973 and 1993.

It was stated during today’s IWF Congress here that a proposal for 10 men’s and 10 women’s categories, an increase on the eight currently used for both genders at IWF events, is scheduled to be approved in July 2018.

At that point, the categories are due to be implemented into the revised qualification system currently being developed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

This is with the view to their official introduction in November 2018.

Other intentions cited during a presentation by IWF director general Attila Adamfi were the review of all age groups' categories - youth, junior and senior - and the alignment of junior and senior categories.

The desire to align youth and junior categories, with special consideration for the lightest and heaviest, and establish new world records in all categories was also pointed out.

Details of the revised qualification system for Tokyo 2020, many of which were already known, were also outlined.

It was revealed earlier this month that weightlifting is set to adopt a system based on individual performance rather than national teams' aggregated efforts at major championships.

A three-day meeting of the IWF SPC concluded that there were clear benefits in making the switch, especially in tightening doping controls and encouraging top athletes to compete more often.

The SPC decided that new bodyweight categories should be introduced, seven each for men and women for Tokyo 2020.

It was also agreed that Olympic team sizes should be a maximum of eight, four males and four females, rather than the 10 at Rio 2016, six males and four females.

Ilya Ilyin of Kazakhstan was stripped of his two Olympic gold medals ©Getty Images
Ilya Ilyin of Kazakhstan was stripped of his two Olympic gold medals ©Getty Images

Additionally, it was determined that only one athlete per nation, rather than two, should compete in any weight category and that field sizes should be limited to 14.

It was confirmed today that an individual will be expected to compete in the new qualification system on six occasions.

There were misgivings expressed by many "clean" coaches and lifters about the prolonged absence of Kazakhstan's Ilya Ilyin, the world record-breaking 94 kilograms lifter who competed only twice between winning gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics.

At one stage, Ilyin was absent from competition for more than two years.

When samples from those two Games were re-tested by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Ilyin came up positive both times and forfeited his two gold medals.

Ten of the 49 weightlifting positives in the IOC's re-testing of samples from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 came from the 94kg class.

Among the other intended changes cited today was the shortening of the qualification period to 18 months, starting on November 1, 2018 and concluding on April 30, 2020.

The competition calendar is set to be expanded to reflect the IWF endorsement of existing events for the purpose of Olympic qualification.

Qualification events will be split into three levels with varying amount of points on offer.

Top-level events include the IWF World Championships and Continental Championships.

The SPC has also been tasked with looking at ways of making weightlifting more innovative, and may continue its work after the all-important December deadline by which the IWF must convince the IOC that it has a robust anti-doping strategy in place.

Failure to do so would cost the sport its Olympic status after Tokyo 2020.