Candidates for the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) elections next month are being asked to sign a document that contravenes the governing body’s Constitution, according to the IWF’s former director general Attila Adamfi.
Adamfi, who is standing for general secretary, also questioned the IWF’s new rules that appear to restrict free speech and, he believes, give too much leeway to candidates who have committed doping offences.
He called for more transparency from the IWF in the interim rules that cover ethical behaviour and, specifically, eligibility checks for the elections.
The IWF had failed to publish an important document that all candidates need to see, Adamfi said - despite the fact that the original deadline for eligibility submissions was today.
It has now been extended by a week.
Other candidates have raised some of the same points as Adamfi, and have also queried the presence on the nominations list of Mike Irani, the IWF Interim President.
Irani appears to be ineligible, under the Constitution, for five of the six roles for which he has applied – President, general secretary, first vice-president, vice-president, and a seat on the Executive Board.
Candidates must have the backing of their own National Federation but Irani, from Britain, does not have it as British Weight Lifting is among the strongest critics of the current IWF regime.
There is only one way around that.
A candidate who has served 12 years on the IWF Board or any of its Committees, and who has proof of support from one fifth of the IWF’s members, can stand in the elections "to any position on the respective body."
The only "respective body" on which Irani has served 12 years is the Medical Committee, which he chairs and for which he is also standing.
Asked why he was standing for other roles, Irani told insidethegames: "I have presented my candidacy in the conviction that it is appropriate, but like all candidates it will depend on the decision of the eligibility panel."
Decisions on candidates’ eligibility will, if the Board agrees to a recommendation from the Ethics and Disciplinary Commission (EDC), be made by an independent dispute service from Britain, Sport Resolutions.
The independent members of the EDC, which drew up the new rules, voted unanimously to take no part in the decision-making process because so many current Executive Board members are standing for election - 14 of them.
The EDC stood aside to avoid any perceived or real conflicts of interest, having had "regular contacts over the past few weeks" with Board members while drawing up the rules.
Adamfi has called the interim rules into question on a number of points, in a letter to Irani and Mohamed Jalood, the IWF’s secretary general.
He pointed out that article 105 of the interim rules, adopted by the IWF Board last week, states that any decision by the candidates’ Eligibility Determination Panel "is not appealable."
This goes against the IWF Constitution.
"IWF Constitution section 12.8 provides the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that shall not be limited by the EDC Interim Rules," Adamfi wrote.
He said all candidates were required to sign "an acknowledgement and agreement to be bound by the EDC Interim Rules" when those rules could not supersede the Constitution.
On the question of doping violations by candidates, Adamfi suggested the IWF should "use a consistent approach" when considering a candidate’s eligibility.
"For a doping offence the audited period is only 10 years, while for other offences is lifetime," Adamfi wrote, before pointing out that all offences should be treated the same and that doping should not have a "time limit" that is less than for other offences.
One person who benefits from the 10-year limit is an IWF Board member, the Russian Maxim Agapitov, who served a doping ban in the 1990s and who is standing for three roles.
Another candidate for the Board, the Belgian Tom Goegebuer, wrote to the EDC to make the same point.
"In my personal opinion the auditable period on doping offences should not be limited to 10 years, but lifetime like the other offences," he wrote.
"With athletes usually performing till around 30 years old, it doesn’t make sense to limit the period to 10 years for candidates that are usually over 45.
"Even if this is hard for persons with violations a long time ago, it is the same or worse for a bankruptcy 30 years ago, and the IOC will welcome a hard stance against doping.
"It is not clear to me, how a sanction 11 years ago is no problem, while a sanction nine years is not acceptable."
Several candidates were unhappy with what they saw as an attempt to stop free speech in the new rules.
While candidates were allowed under rules 89 and 91 to "promote their candidacy… speak publicly", they appeared to be prevented from doing so under rule 121, which has caused widespread consternation.
It states: "Officials bound by the Ethics and Disciplinary Code shall refrain from making any public statement (including in the media or social media) in respect or in connection with the federation, its members, the sport, the Olympic Movement, any athlete or official of the federation without the express permission of the President or the Executive Board."
Adamfi said "the basic right to express an opinion" should not be denied to anybody, provided their statements were not defamatory.
Goegebuer said: "I think it is acceptable that you cannot attack your own federation without any proof, but it is not acceptable that an official cannot give any kind of opinion without permission of the President."
He pointed out that the rules did not make it clear precisely what is and is not allowed.
"I would like to see a clarification on this," Goegebuer said.
On transparency, Adamfi suggested that the IWF should amend Article 73 of the interim rules, which states that EDC decisions "may be published on the IWF website, unless the IWF Rules provide otherwise."
This should be changed, Adamfi suggested, to "shall be published" to avoid any decisions being kept from the public domain.
The missing document is the Terms of Reference of the EDC.
The interim rules refer to this document for candidates seeking further information but it "was not provided to the candidates and is not available publicly, i.e. the content of a referenced document is unknown," wrote Adamfi.
When he asked the chair of the EDC how to find the document, he was told to request it from the IWF secretariat.
Adamfi and other candidates have done that but without any luck.
"The document is still not available," wrote Adamfi.
"For the above reason I kindly ask you to publish the EDC Terms of Reference immediately."
He also suggested that the IWF should send a copy to every member federation "for full transparency", since the rules applied to them too.
Last week Irani said in an IWF statement that the interim rules "will ensure a high standard of governance is applied" in determining candidates’ eligibility.
The elections are scheduled for March 26 and 27.