The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) should hold its delayed elections before the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games or the sport’s chances of retaining its place on the Olympic programme will suffer.
That is the clear message sent to the IWF leaders by its former director general Attila Adamfi, whose view is backed by other candidates and member federations.
Adamfi, who is standing for the role of general secretary, has written to ask why the Constitutional Congress has been postponed indefinitely when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not request a postponement.
Any unnecessary delay in holding the Constitutional Congress will have a knock-on effect on the date of the elections.
"Once again it looks like the self-interest of a few to ensure they remain in power for several more months, rather than what is best for the future of the sport, has driven a decision that is far from satisfactory," said Ashley Metcalfe, chief executive of British Weight Lifting.
Craig Walker, President of the Canadian Weightlifting Federation, said, "The more we wait, the less trust we'll have, whether from the IOC, our weightlifting community, or the public at large.
"And trust is already in short supply."
The IOC has warned the IWF that it is in danger of losing its place on the Olympic Games programme because of repeated failures in governance.
It publicly castigated the IWF last week when Thomas Bach, the IOC President, said weightlifting’s place would be put under review if it did not reform its leadership, culture and governance "in a timely way".
In a letter sent by its director general Christophe de Kepper to all member federations, the IOC said the IWF should not hold its elections until it had adopted a new Constitution.
De Kepper also demanded reform "in a timely way".
Asked if it could give any further details about timescales, the IOC said, "The IOC will continue communicating with the IWF to clarify the necessary steps to protect clean athletes and advance meaningful governance change.
"We will also update on any decisions or statements of the IOC Executive Board.
"We have no further details to share at this moment."
The IWF has responded to IOC criticism by reversing a change to anti-doping rules, vowing to give athletes two votes on the board, and agreeing to put the Constitution before the elections.
It postponed the Electoral Congress, scheduled for the last week of March, but has also postponed the Constitutional Congress for a second time for no apparent reason.
No explanation was given and there was no reply from the IWF to questions sent by insidethegames.
The new Constitution was delivered to the Board last week after final approval by the Reform and Governance Commission, which is chaired by the Australian lawyer Darren Kane.
Any delays in adopting a new Constitution will go against the IOC’s "timely way" request.
The Constitutional Congress has already been postponed once, by a month, until April 29 and 30.
In writing to Mike Irani and Mohamed Jalood, the Interim President and general secretary of the IWF, Adamfi states, "I am very surprised to learn that the Constitutional Congress has been postponed again, with an obvious consequence that the elections will be even more delayed.
"Please explain the rationale behind this as I do not see any justification other than delaying the elections until after the Olympic Games.
"Nowhere in the IOC's letter was there a request to postpone the new Constitution.
"On the contrary, IOC's letter actually suggests that in order to 'reduce the strong concerns’' of the IOC, the IWF shall ensure that a 'significant change to the culture and leadership of the IWF’'will happen 'in a timely way’' i.e. as soon as possible.
"Delaying this - especially until after the Tokyo Olympic Games - will not serve this clear objective."
Adamfi points out that the deadline for sending out the agenda and other documents to all member federations, which stands at 30 days, "can still easily be met" if the Constitutional Congress goes ahead on April 29 and 30.
There would, he said, be time for the IWF to consult its own members, as well as external stakeholders such as the IOC, World Anti-Doping Agency, and International Testing Agency.
"So in conclusion," he writes, "please explain why the Constitutional Congress (and as a consequence, the elections) has been postponed when I see no justification to do so as:
- the IOC did not request to postpone the new Constitution
- the process to create a new Constitution… could be concluded as planned."
If the new Constitution was accepted by the Board and sent out soon, and if the Constitutional Congress was held on April 29 and 30, the elections would then have to be held within 90 days.
That could be as late as July 28, which is four days after the start of competition in Tokyo.
But it would be possible to hold the elections earlier within that 90-day period if the IWF is serious about taking the IOC's advice.
Tom Goegebuer, President of the Belgian Weightlifting Federation and a candidate for the IWF Board, said it was important not to rush the Constitutional Congress, but "the letter from the IOC cannot be misused by the current Executive Board to stay longer in their position.
"The IOC is clearly not satisfied with the current leadership and any unnecessary delay is another reason to be dropped from the Olympic programme.
"The constitution needs to be thoroughly amended in a manner acceptable to the IOC and member federations, and an election must follow quickly.
"The IOC does not want to see the same officials at the Olympics."
Britain’s Metcalfe said, "While we fully support the principle of introducing a new Constitution before the elections, we remain extremely concerned that the IWF’s decision to postpone both, and the resulting delay, may still put the Olympic future of the sport at severe risk.
"The IOC did not request for the Constitutional congress to be delayed.
"With no details or dates proposed by the IWF, the current decision threatens the IOC’s demands for swift and appropriate action.
"We can see no reason why the new constitution and the elections cannot be both completed ahead of the Tokyo Games and this has to be the main objective of the IWF Board."
Jerry Wallwork, President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, said, "I strongly support the call to have the Electoral Congress prior to the Olympic Games.
"The time for diplomacy is over, drastic changes must be made within the IWF now to satisfy many questions being asked by the IOC.
"The priority is to maintain our place at the Olympic Games at all costs.
"If it means the current board all step down then so be it.
"The future of the sport and our athletes is on the line."
Walker, Canadian Weightlifting Federation President, said, "We're puzzled and alarmed by the postponement of the Constitutional Congress.
"The April 28-29 dates already represent a delay of the original schedule, and there is still plenty of time in March to ensure that all of the requirements for holding the Congress in April are met.
"We've lost valuable time by not taking the IOC's directions or the advice of independent advisors seriously until now, when it's almost too late.
"And we have yet to hear a good reason - any reason at all, actually - for delaying the Constitutional Congress further."