The IWF's next election could be held in a "hybrid" format ©IWF

The International Weightlifting Federation has told its 187 members that its next elections could be a “hybrid” event, with some votes being cast in person and others online.

The troubled governing body - which has three times recently been warned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the way it is run – has consulted legal experts, it said in an upbeat message to its 187 member federations.

Mike Irani, the British doctor who is the IWF’s Interim President, also said the IWF wanted to reassure athletes that "clean sport" was paramount in Olympic qualifying, that it has consolidated "independence and professionalism" in its anti-doping efforts, and that it was about to appoint independent legal and governance experts to key commissions.

Irani also highlighted the organisational effort behind the forthcoming Youth World Cup, an online competition that has attracted more than 450 entries from 62 federations.

The IWF, based in Lausanne, is planning to hold Constitutional and Electoral Congresses in the last week of March, though it may have to act earlier if one fifth of its members request an Extraordinary Congress, which appears to be likely.

The governing body understood that "Swiss law would allow for this (Electoral Congress) to take place in a hybrid online/offline format if necessary on account of the pandemic".

A warning about vote-rigging in a "live" Congress was issued this week when a prominent doctor resigned from the IWF Medical Committee.

Dr Dominik Doerr, president of the Luxembourg Weightlifting Federation, withdrew his representation of the IWF at the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and advised the IWF to hold elections online.

"My suggestion is a virtual Congress as soon as possible…the risk of influencing and corruption will be diminished in a virtual format," Doerr wrote in his resignation letter.

He said weightlifting was "in imminent danger of being thrown out of the Olympic family," after a series of events that led to two Executive Board members, Antonio Urso and Ursula Papandrea, resigning.

IWF Interim President Mike Irani has issued an upbeat statement amid a turbulent period for the governing body ©IWF
IWF Interim President Mike Irani has issued an upbeat statement amid a turbulent period for the governing body ©IWF

When the McLaren report on corruption in weightlifting was published in June it said there had been bribery and vote-rigging at the past two IWF Electoral Congresses, when the disgraced former President Tamas Ajan was victorious.

The IWF had three Interim Presidents in three days last week, shortly after IOC president Thomas Bach voiced his "deep concerns" about IWF governance.

A petition calling for a vote of no confidence in the IWF Board, created by the IWF Athletes Commission chair Sarah Davies of Britain, has so far had more than 12,000 signatures.

Irani’s statement, also signed by general secretary Mohammed Jalood of Iraq, said he was "happy to be able to report on some key progress".

"The IOC has made it clear to us that how we act now will directly affect weightlifting’s place on the Olympic Programme for Paris 2024," Irani said.

"Throughout my involvement in this sport, the welfare of weightlifters has been my absolute priority.

"That will not change. 

"It is up to all of us to now move the situation forward and secure the possibility for our young lifters to take their place on the Olympic platform.

"As the fourth IWF President within six months, I am very much aware that different people have different versions of recent events.

"Ursula Papandrea has, for example, voiced criticism.”

Papandrea, the first woman to lead the IWF, was voted out of office as Interim President last week before she resigned from the Executive Board, citing a long list of complaints.

"The Executive Board has already addressed a number of the issues she raised with the IOC, while concentrating on moving weightlifting forward," said Irani.

"Of most importance has been the confirmation that any changes to the Olympic qualification system that might become necessary on account of COVID-19 will be entirely consistent with the principles already agreed, notably those around clean sport.

"We have moved quickly to further consolidate the independence and professionalism of anti-doping efforts…by finalising a contract to extend our partnership with the International Testing Agency (ITA) to the end of 2024.

"The ITA is also following up on the cases revealed by the investigation carried out by Professor Richard McLaren and his team (in the corruption report published in June).

"We have encouraged and empowered the ITA to be as transparent as they can with this process."

IWF Athletes' Commission chairperson Sarah Davies called for a vote of no confidence in the Executive Board last week ©Getty Images
IWF Athletes' Commission chairperson Sarah Davies called for a vote of no confidence in the Executive Board last week ©Getty Images

Irani said the IWF would soon be appointing external legal and governance experts as members of the Reform and Governance Commission and the Disciplinary and Ethics Commission.

The IWF would, while undertaking major governance reforms, "maintain our focus on competition and development," said Irani, who highlighted the record entries for our first Online Youth World Cup, to be held from November 11 to 18.

The online competition was organised after the IWF Youth World Championships in Peru had to be cancelled because of COVID-19.

The competition is being organised by the Peruvian Weightlifting Federation, which was to have hosted the Youth World Championships in Lima, with the support of the IWF and the Peruvian Institute of Sports.

"Registrations for this event far exceed those of the previous tournament that was held in person in the United States in 2019 (183 athletes from 44 federations),” said a statement from organisers.

Those with the highest number of athletes are Colombia, Mexico, and Poland with 20, Chinese Taipei 19, Uzbekistan and Peru 18, United States, Turkey and Cuba 16, Fiji 15, Hungary 13, Great Britain and Spain 12 and Romania 11.