Sam Coffa has dismissed an anonymous email which has rocked weightlifting ©IWF

An anonymous email claiming that senior figures at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) are trying to change Olympic qualifying rules "for their own personal benefits" has been dismissed as "ludicrous" by Sam Coffa, an adviser to the IWF Board.

The "save weightlifting" email has been sent by "John Smith" to national federations and individuals throughout the world.

The toxic contents, clearly written by an insider, have led to a meeting of the IWF Executive Board being called tomorrow.

That meeting is sure to feature heated exchanges between two sides of the divide at the top of the IWF, which was revealed by insidethegames on Sunday (October 11).

Coffa, an experienced administrator who was called in as an adviser to the Board after a corruption scandal that led to the resignation of Tamás Aján as IWF President, made a robust response to accusations in the email.

He and the Romanian Nicu Vlad, his fellow joint technical delegate for weightlifting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, are accused of "killing weightlifting" by their actions.

Coffa and Vlad were given Board approval to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Olympic qualifying, which is unlikely to finish as planned on April 30 next year because of postponements, cancellations and the inconsistency of training and competition opportunities around the world.

They called in the Technical Committee, which Vlad chairs, and "created a think tank to look at the situation from the point of view of athletes, coaches and others", said Coffa.

"When we created our think tank some of the ideas were a bit wild, but they have not made it through to any final document and this email is not a final document nor is it up to date," he added.

The email claims that Coffa "wants a medal" for Australia – where he is President of the national federation – and is motivated by trying to find a way for Eileen Cikamatana to compete in Tokyo.

Sam Coffa has been accused of wanting to shoehorn Eileen Cikamatana, who now competes for Australia after switching from Fiji, into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Sam Coffa has been accused of wanting to shoehorn Eileen Cikamatana, who now competes for Australia after switching from Fiji, into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Cikamatana, who switched nationality from Fiji to Australia and who has set three junior world records within the past year, is not eligible to compete in Tokyo.

Vlad, says the email, "wants the support of these people to avoid the disqualification of Rumania (sic) because of the Olympic reanalysis and other positives".

All of Romania's team of four at London 2012 were positive when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) retested stored samples, and the country has had more athletes provisionally suspended in the past two years and is liable for a suspension when all cases are closed.

"John Smith" said that attempts were being made to change the anti-doping rules in such a way that Romania would escape a ban.

Coffa said: "All this is stupid.

"It's absolutely not a representation of what we want to achieve.

"I thought it would be wise to look at the impact of the pandemic on qualifying, and if necessary we would make some recommendations for approval by the IWF Board and the IOC."

The email includes 13 attachments purporting to be a "draft proposal" and running to hundreds of words, but Coffa said any final "adaptation" of the existing rules would be no more than two or three lines.

"We are still refining," he said.

"A lot of the material in this email was sent to the Technical Committee as a discussion point some time ago, as a template not a formal document, and most of the ideas were eliminated.

"In fact I'd say three-quarters of it is gone."

The details in the email suggest that athletes would be able to count two performances from the Olympic qualifying period, which began on November 1, 2018 – one between then and the end of this year, and another yet to come between January 1 and April 30 next year.

If competitions are not going to be held in the early part of next year, the second performance will be a challenge.

"New" athletes – those not currently eligible – would be allowed in for the four-month qualifying period in 2021, the email claims.

Also, performances in non-Olympic weight categories would be discounted.

A meeting of the IWF Executive Board has been called tomorrow following the anonymous email ©Getty Images
A meeting of the IWF Executive Board has been called tomorrow following the anonymous email ©Getty Images

It also states on the 11th attachment that National Championships would count as Olympic qualifying events, which is not possible as they are not "open" competitions.

"What is the point of John Smith?" said Coffa.

"I am never scared of looking at things like this where clearly we need to do something, because of the pandemic, nor do I take any notice of people who are not prepared to speak under their own name.

"If we weren't looking at the impact on qualifying we wouldn't be doing our job.

"We have not set out to do this because we want to help so-and-so."

Last week the IOC voiced its concerns about weightlifting's problems, caused by the rift on the Board which, it believes, is slowing the reform process that started after the corruption scandal.

President Thomas Bach said the IOC had "strong concerns about the lack of progress with regards to the reforms of the IWF constitution, the lack of acceptance of independent advice in this procedure, and the representation of athletes within the federation, which definitely needs to be strengthened".