A new International Weightlifting Federation Athletes' Commission is set to come into force from September ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has taken the first step towards giving athletes a meaningful voice in the sport’s future.

Current or recently-retired weightlifters from all parts of the world can put themselves forward for a place on the new Athletes’ Commission, which will play a key role in future decision-making.

The IWF is hoping male and female candidates will come forward from all five continental federations and would like to have 10 on the panel.

"We currently have no athletes’ representation on the Executive Board… we must ensure the athlete voice is in the room," the IWF’s Interim President Ursula Papandrea said at the start of the year, when discussing governance reform during the corruption scandal that led to the resignation of long-standing President Tamás Aján.

"An athletes advisory council is something that has been discussed by the IWF Board and now it needs to happen: there's no reason for it not to exist."

The IWF has now announced that nominations are open for places on the Athletes’ Commission, which will be up and running within weeks.

For the first term, those selected by the IWF Board will sit on the body from September 1 until the end of the scheduled dates for next year’s postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Athletes’ Commission will be "an effective platform where the views of athletes are represented and the voice of athletes can be heard by advising the Executive Board on matters concerning weightlifting athletes," the IWF said in a statement on the nomination process.

"In order to fulfil the IWF Constitution and by-laws, the IWF has the responsibility to give athletes a voice in its governance and decision-making process, as athletes are the building blocks of the sport itself."

Athletes’ views will be presented to the IWF’s various committees and commissions, and athletes will be asked for "agreement by a majority" to any reform and governance documents created by the Board.

Gareth Evans, centre, believes that "more communication between the IWF and the athletes" will be a positive ©Getty Images
Gareth Evans, centre, believes that "more communication between the IWF and the athletes" will be a positive ©Getty Images

There are plans to have an athletes’ representative on the Board, but that and other governance reforms have yet to be agreed.

Candidates must have a clean doping record; must be "in good standing" with their national federation; must have competed at continental or World Championships or the Olympic Games in recent years; must have conversational English, the IWF’s working language; and must be 18 or older.

If candidates are no longer competing, they must have retired no more than four years ago.

Gareth Evans, the Welshman who competed for Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games and is Commonwealth Games 69-kilogram champion, is one of the sport’s few athletes with voting rights.

As athletes’ representative he sits on the Board of Weightlifting Wales and will consider putting himself forward for a place on the IWF Athletes’ Commission.

"There’s going to be more communication between the IWF and the athletes and that’s a good thing," said Evans, who believes doping is by far the biggest issue for athletes, at least as far as Britain is concerned.

"I like that they want to give more power and influence to the athlete, as we are the ones most affected by what goes on."

Evans would also welcome the chance to talk to the IWF about the sport "making more of an effort to put weightlifting in the public eye, give the sport more exposure".

Athletes have never been asked for an opinion when host cities are chosen for big championships, he said.

"Maybe what’s gone on in the past has had an influence in where the championships are held, and I’m not saying we all want competitions to be held in paradise, but we often find ourselves in places where there’s no crowd, nothing going on.

"The last time people said they really enjoyed a World Championships, spoke highly of the venue and the crowds, was in Houston in 2015.£

There is an existing Athletes’ Commission, but it was not encouraged to be active during Ajan’s reign.

One of its members is Tom Goegebuer, President of the Belgian Weightlifting Federation and three times an Olympian, who was the athletes’ representative on the IWF’s Clean Sport and Sport Programme commissions, which did so much good work in recent years.

"It will be really good to have many more members on the Athletes’ Commission, to have an equal split of males and females," Goegebuer said.

Tom Goegebuer will not stand for the new Athletes’ Commission ©Getty Images
Tom Goegebuer will not stand for the new Athletes’ Commission ©Getty Images

"I also understand completely that Ursula and the IWF Board want to put the message to the public that they want to start over - it’s important that the outside world sees that."

Since 2017, Goegebuer has had a lot of input on discussions on anti-doping policies, bodyweight classes and has taken part in multi-sport athletes’ forums organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"The work on those two commissions was very intensive," said Goegebuer.

"I would not have taken part if my voice, the athletes’ voice, was not heard but they really listened and sometimes adapted to my view."

He will not stand for the new Athletes’ Commission.

"In my head I am still an athlete, and I believe with all my experience I can help," he said.

"But I am going more and more to coaching, and I have a lot of work with my national federation."

Goegebuer will be involved in the process of selecting candidates along with members of the President’s Advisory Commission, whose recommendations will go to the Board for final approval.

"This is hopefully not how it will be done in the future," said Papandrea.

"Athletes' representatives should be selected by their fellow athletes. 

"But we have to start the ball rolling."