Mike Irani is the IWF's Interim President ©IWF

Britain’s national weightlifting federation has effectively blocked any attempt by Mike Irani, the sport’s interim global leader, to continue his role at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

Irani is Interim President of the IWF but he cannot stand in its forthcoming elections because British Weightlifting (BWL), which is strongly critical of the sport’s leadership, will not support his candidacy.

Instead BWL is backing two other candidates for senior IWF roles, Matthew Curtain and Heather Allison.

Curtain, a highly qualified sports administrator who was sport competition manager for weightlifting at the London 2012 Olympic Games, and academic Allison, who sits on the IWF Women’s Commission, are both standing for first vice-president, vice-president, and the Executive Board.

Irani, like other candidates, is not eligible to stand without the backing of his home federation.

"It’s nothing personal against Mike and no disrespect to him, it’s a decision our board has made on principle," said BWL chief executive Ashley Metcalfe.

"We’ve been calling for change and for the entire IWF Executive Board to resign since all this came to the fore," he explained, in reference to the corruption scandals of last year and the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) repeated criticism of the way the sport is run.

"This Board has failed the sport and its athletes for many years and has a seriously tarnished reputation in the eyes of its major stakeholder - the IOC.

"The IWF needs completely new people - ethically credible, with different skill sets and a vision and expertise to drive the sport forward to the real benefit of the athletes."

British Weightlifting has put forward Matthew Curtain and Heather Allison for senior positions at the IWF ©ITG
British Weightlifting has put forward Matthew Curtain and Heather Allison for senior positions at the IWF ©ITG

Irani, a consultant rheumatologist, has been chair of the IWF Medical Committee and a Board member for eight years.

He was appointed Interim President last October, becoming the IWF’s fourth leader in 2020 after Tamás Aján, who resigned in the wake of the corruption scandals, the American Ursula Papandrea, who was ousted by the Board despite having the support of the IOC, and the Thai Intarat Yodbangtoey, whose "reign" lasted only a day.

Intarat’s reputation was tainted by Thailand’s suspension from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for multiple doping violations and its prominent appearance in a German TV exposé of corruption and doping in weightlifting.

As he has served 12 years on the board Intarat is entitled to stand in the elections in his own right, with no need for his own federation’s support, provided he is supported by one fifth of the IWF Member Federations.

He sought that support by writing to all members.

But whether he got it is unknown, as the IWF does not have to publish a list of candidates until 30 days before the Electoral Congress, which is due to go ahead on March 26-27, probably virtually.

That 30-day delay gives those "in the know" a head start in attempting to form alliances and is another example of bad governance by the IWF, said Metcalfe.

"These people are interested only in themselves, not the sport,” he said.

"They totally misunderstand what good governance and appropriate behaviour is."

Irani said his work for the IWF had been "a steep learning curve" in which he had been given "support and direction" from the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF).

"The IWF is totally aware why we are at risk of being removed from the Games," he said.

"Better governance, greater gender equality and athlete representation on the Executive Board all needed to be addressed, and I have seen that they are to be increased in the new Constitution.

"I would like to thank all who have supported me, which is what we should all do - support each other."

Weightlifting's spot on the Olympic programme for Paris 2024 remains uncertain owing to the crisis at the IWF ©Getty Images
Weightlifting's spot on the Olympic programme for Paris 2024 remains uncertain owing to the crisis at the IWF ©Getty Images

Curtain has had senior roles in weightlifting and other sports, as well as major multi-sport events.

Metcalfe highlighted his "passion for weightlifting" and his work in making teqball the seventh most popular sport on social media.

Teqball, which combines elements of football and table tennis, was invented less than 10 years ago but its popularity has grown to such an extent it has been accepted into GAISF, as well as continental beach games.

Curtain has been sport director of the International Teqball Federation since 2018, before which he was sport director of the Commonwealth Games Federation for five years.

A former weightlifter, he sat on the IWF Sport Programme Commission, was chief executive of the Australian Weightlifting Federation for three years, and was sport manager at two Commonwealth Games, 2006 and 2014, as well as at London 2012.

Colombian candidates will also be missing from the IWF list when it is released.

Colombia is under threat of being banned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games because it had three athletes test positive for boldenone last year.

It has decided for ethical reasons not to submit the names of a number of candidates it had lined up for various IWF roles.

"It is time to put down the personal interests and strengthen the general interests,” said William Peña, President of the Colombian Weightlifting federation.

"We consider it of great importance to take into account the ethical consequences about our acts, and the potential benefits or damage to our sport.

"Colombia has five positive cases in 70 years and now three adverse analytical results in progress in front of the International Testing Agency.

Peña said Colombia supported its athletes in their appeals, which are based on unknowingly ingesting a prohibited substance through meat, but it did not want to risk damaging the image of weightlifting by contesting the elections.

"We do not have any legal impediment to aspire to be in IWF positions, but today, we do not consider it proper to our sport make any application," he said.