Former IWF Interim President Ursula Papandrea has joined condemnation of the Board's timings for adopting a new Constitution and holding elections ©Getty Images

The International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) claim that it has "moved speedily" in attempting to change the way the sport is governed has been rejected by its former Interim President Ursula Papandrea.

The American has put forward a timeline that would bring forward the elections to July after the IWF Board controversially voted to hold them after the rearranged Olympic Games, "possibly in October".

Another critic, the Tokyo 2020 sport manager for weightlifting Reiko Chinen, complained of "gangsters" on the IWF Executive Board.

Chinen, from Japan, who said yesterday that the Board’s actions threatened weightlifting’s Olympic status, called for more member federations to air their views.

She said there were "wise members of the IWF Board" but "unfortunately we have too many gangsters on the Board".

Antonio Conflitti from Moldova, a candidate for the Presidency of the European Weightlifting Federation, said that some IWF Board members were acting in their own interests, not the sport’s.

In calling for a change in the scheduling of elections he said, "If you don't want to face this last commitment, do at least one thing right. Resign!"

The IWF Board, which was severely criticised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week, has faced further complaints from its own members after announcing its timings for adopting a new Constitution and holding elections.

Papandrea, who was removed as Interim President by the Board in October after pushing for change, highlighted the potentially disastrous "time-wasting tactics" in a four-month period last year.

Ursula Papandrea, right, feels the IWF Board has
Ursula Papandrea, right, feels the IWF Board has "reacted to the IOC concerns insufficiently" ©Brian Oliver

In a statement issued today Mike Irani, the IWF’s Interim President, explained the delay in holding a Constitutional Congress by saying, "Only four months have passed since the IWF established its Reform and Governance Commission (RGC).

"In that short time, under the leadership of independent experts, the Commission has already carried out a comprehensive governance review and has now proposed a complete overhaul of the IWF’s constitution and bylaws."

Anybody who clicks through Irani’s statement to a link to a Governance Review is given a different and more accurate version of events.

The RGC was approved by the Board on June 21 last year, more than eight months ago.

Its first attempts at reform failed.

It was established and held its first meeting on July 26 and appointed three independent members who were recommended by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), a body with impeccably strong credentials within the Olympic Movement.

The independent members from New Zealand, Britain and South Africa eventually stepped down when the Board, having previously agreed to Terms of Reference including payments to the independent members, changed its mind, said Papandrea.

Before they were derailed, the independent members had put forward a "roadmap for reform" which was the sort of progress the IOC expected to see.

The IWF Board did not like it, not least because it suggested Virtual Congresses, and would have featured the adoption of new eligibility rules for electoral candidates in January, before elections in March.

Reiko Chinen, Tokyo 2020 sport manager for weightlifting, complained of "gangsters" on the IWF Board  ©Getty Images
Reiko Chinen, Tokyo 2020 sport manager for weightlifting, complained of "gangsters" on the IWF Board ©Getty Images

"The Board declined a January Virtual Congress from the RGC roadmap and reiterated its disapproval for Virtual Congresses in principle," said Papandrea.

Three new independent members were recommended by the IWF Board rather than ASOIF, and they started work in October.

The situation now appears to be the same as it was then - some members do not want rule changes that might cost them their seat on the Board or render them ineligible to stand in the elections.

If it does have to happen they are determined to stay in power long enough to lead the sport at the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games from July 23 to August 8.

Ashley Metcalfe, chief executive of British Weight Lifting, said this week, "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."

Papandrea has written to all Board members to say they have "reacted to the IOC concerns insufficiently".

The IOC has requested fundamental changes to the IWF’s leadership, culture and governance "in a timely way" and has made its views known in a letter sent to all of the IWF’s 188 member federations.

Papandrea says the Board’s attitude has made her "particularly alarmed at the risks this presents to our sport and athletes.

"My concern extends to the reactive versus proactive decision-making.

"While I congratulate you on reacting to part of the IOC warning letter, you have only addressed a fraction of their message by changing course on several points.

"I request that you address all facets of the warning letter from the IOC by addressing all of the listed concerns."

Antonio Conflitti called on IWF Board members to resign if they would not alter the Congress schedule ©Antonio Conflitti
Antonio Conflitti called on IWF Board members to resign if they would not alter the Congress schedule ©Antonio Conflitti

She then proposes a timeline that leads to a much swifter process of new Constitution and elections, and which does not contravene any existing rules.

For the Virtual Constitutional Congress on a suggested date of May 25 Papandrea proposes a March 25 deadline for submitting amendments for inclusion on the agenda, and delivery of the final version of the Constitution to members on April 24.

The IWF version is a consultation period lasting until 31 March, comments from stakeholders to be considered in April, and a final draft being sent to members "in time for a June Constitutional Congress".

Papandrea’s suggested date for the Virtual Electoral Congress is July 4 and 5, with an immediate call for nominations to be submitted by May 5, and an announcement of eligible candidates on June 4 after eligibility checks.

The IWF version in Irani’s statement is, "Based on the proposed Constitution sent to IWF Member Federations, the IWF Executive Board anticipates that elections may be held in October."

He said, "The IWF has moved speedily to prepare these reforms in recent months…

"It has become clear that culture change is called for in the global governance of weightlifting.

"That culture change can only be put in place if all the constituent parts of our global governance are part of the process."