Luis Javier Mosquera won a silver medal for Colombia at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Colombia, the strongest team entered in the Pan American Weightlifting Championships, has withdrawn two days before the event starts because of a dispute over "cash only" payments.

Their maximum team of 20 included two world champions, an Olympic silver medallist due to make a comeback after injury and six other medallists from the 2022 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships which Colombia hosted in Bogotá in December.

The decision will cause disruption to Colombia's Olympic plans as all continental championships this year and next year are qualifying events for Paris 2024.

The next qualifier they can take part in is the IWF Grand Prix in Cuba in June.

Rumours about Colombia's participation began to circulate yesterday in the host city Bariloche, in Argentina, where the Championships run from March 25 until April 2.

Pan American Weightlifting Federation (PAWF) President José Quiñones confirmed that Colombia had withdrawn.

"Colombia asked [the Argentina organisers] to transfer money for the team, and the Argentinians refused, saying they wanted cash," he said.

"For that reason, they are not going."

Olympic champion Neisi Dajomes of Ecuador is among the star names due to compete in Argentina ©Getty Images
Olympic champion Neisi Dajomes of Ecuador is among the star names due to compete in Argentina ©Getty Images

Gustavo Malgor, President of the Argentina Weightlifting Federation and leader of the Organising Committee in Bariloche, said: "According to comments by Mr William Peña (President of the Colombian Weightlifting Federation), his federation does not have the money (cash) to cover the costs of participating in this tournament.

"We never received an official notification about it, only sayings from the President of the Colombian federation.

"It is a pity not to have such important athletes in the most important tournament on the continent."

The "cash only" conditions have caused problems for other teams including Canada and the United States, who arranged to pay a portion of their fees by bank transfer.

Registration costs are $125 (£100/€115) plus a $100 (£80/€90) anti-doping fee for athletes, and $125 for officials, while accommodation is $90 (£73/€82) to $140 (£113/€128) a night.

That means large teams must pay tens of thousands of dollars, depending how long they stay in Bariloche.

Malgor did not give a reason for the "cash only" demand, but bank transfers are not straightforward in some parts of the world.

Argentina introduced new rules on dealing with foreign currency transactions, including taxation, last October.

There are also two exchange rates in Argentina, bank rate and “blue dollar”.

The latter is an unofficial exchange rate that makes dollars worth almost twice as much as the bank rate.

"Dealing in cash caused a lot of trouble for weightlifting in the past, and this demand is not only very difficult in practical terms, it is morally wrong," one national team leader said.

insidethegames has tried to contact Peña but there has been no reply.

The PAWF Congress precedes the Championships, where the first lift is made at the Estadio Bomberos on Monday (March 27).

Colombia’s withdrawal is bad news for Luis Javier Mosquera, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist who was due to return at 73 kilograms after a lengthy injury lay-off. 

Yenny Alvarez and Francisco Mosquera both won gold in the World Championships, where Colombia's other medallists in the team for Bariloche were Rosalba Morales, Nathalia Llamosa Mosquera, Manuela Berrio, Brayan Rodallegas, Jhor Moreno and Rafael Cerro.

Mattie Rogers of the United States is aiming for her eighth Pan Americna medal in a row ©Getty Images
Mattie Rogers of the United States is aiming for her eighth Pan Americna medal in a row ©Getty Images

The biggest remaining teams come from the host nation, the US, Canada, Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The Olympic 64kg and 76kg champions Maude Charron from Canada and Neisi Dajomes from Ecuador are set to compete at 59kg and 81kg respectively.

A host of other medallists from Tokyo 2020 and Bogotá will compete in Bariloche, where the 21 nations include a guest invitation team from Spain.

Six of the US team of 20 are Olympians - Jourdan Delacruz, Wes Kitts, Sarah Robles, Mattie Rogers, Kate Vibert and Caine Wilkes.

CJ Cummings, the Tokyo Olympian and multiple youth and junior world champion, is not competing in Bariloche but is on course to lift in the Grand Prix in Cuba.

Rogers, aiming for her eighth straight Pan American medal, Robles and Vibert are World Championships medallists, as are Meredith Alwine, Olivia Reeves and Hayley Reichardt.

Other top achievers taking part next week include Keydomar Vallenilla and Julio Mayora from Venezuela, Tamara Salazar from Ecuador, Ana Lopez Ferrer from Mexico, Nathasah Rosa from Brazil, Hampton Morris from the US and Boady Santavy from Canada, whose brother Noah also lifts.

This is the first continental championships of 2023 and will be followed by Europe in Armenia from April 15 to 23, Asia from May 3 to 13 in South Korea, Africa from May 11 to 20 in Tunisia and Oceania in the Solomon Islands from November 20 to 24.