Brian Oliver

The reformers failed to gain control of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) at its elections in Tirana today and the sport did itself no favours when embarrassing scenes marred the proceedings.

"Old guard" candidates won two of the top three places and the predictions of reformer candidates were largely accurate - "the same old faces with a few new names in the mix."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set an example to governing bodies only yesterday by sidelining the International Boxing Association (IBA) from any role at Paris 2024, which looks ominous for the IWF.

But there could be hope for the future, given the names among the five vice-presidents on the Board and the fact that there are 10 newcomers on it - and six women, double the minimum requirement under new gender equality rules.

The IOC wants a "culture change" in weightlifting and has dropped the sport from the programme for Los Angeles 2028.

It also said recently that weightlifting’s place in Paris could come under review.

Two of the people responsible for the fall-out in relations between the IOC and the IWF took the top two positions in Albania today, President and general secretary.

Mohamed Jaloud, IWF general secretary until today, and Jose Quinones, President of the Pan American Federation, have been key players on the IWF Board during a two-year period of ceaseless governance problems.

The trouble started with the broadcast of a television documentary in January 2020 that exposed doping corruption and financial mismanagement.

Weightlifting’s image nosedived.

That was during the era of Tamás Aján, since banned from the sport for life.

Mohamed Jaloud was elected as the new President of the International Weightlifting Federation following an eventful Congress ©ITG
Mohamed Jaloud was elected as the new President of the International Weightlifting Federation following an eventful Congress ©ITG

Jaloud and Quinones had nothing to do with that but when the IWF had a chance to reform, to change the way it operates, to gain favour with the IOC, it failed badly.

These two were involved when, at one point, the IWF had three Interim Presidents within three days in 2020.

Even after adopting a new Constitution the IWF Board ignored its own rules.

It talks of openness and transparency but it has kept important information from members.

The Board has held plenty of meetings that should have been shown on livestream, but that never happened and details of these meetings were published long past the required deadline, if at all.

The general secretary must take much of the responsibility for that failing.

But there are signs of improvement, at long last, and the hope now is that the Old Guard will become reformers themselves.

If it does not happen, weightlifting has no long-term future as an Olympic sport.

The election of somebody who has a strong relationship with the IOC as first vice-president - number two to the President - was essential.

Ursula Papandrea adds credibility to the new regime in that role, given that she worked well with the IOC during her time, in 2020, as Interim President.

Attila Adamfi brings a wealth of administrative experience, and there is a genuine newcomer - about time too - in Doris Travieso of Venezuela.

Weightlifting has listened to the never-ending complaints about its doping record, has committed money to the cause and in partnership with the International Testing Agency (ITA) the IWF has cleaned up on that front.

Jose Quinones was elected IWF general secretary at the Congress in Tirana ©Jose Quinones
Jose Quinones was elected IWF general secretary at the Congress in Tirana ©Jose Quinones

There were no doping positives at the Tokyo Olympic Games, and last year the IWF spent $3.2 million (£2.6 million/€3 million) on anti-doping, nearly five times as much as it spent in the previous Olympic Games year, 2016.

Now, the IWF desperately needs a documented plan that will convince the IOC it can change its ways.

The next IOC Session is due to take place next May or June in Mumbai.

Jaloud, a tireless worker who is extremely popular among member federations, is clearly a capable operator.

It is time for him to channel his efforts in the right direction, as he said he would before the voting started today.

"We must work together to save weightlifting in the Olympic programme," he said.

Quinones might have faced difficulties because of an internal sporting sanction in Peru had the elections taken place as planned more than a year ago, but it expired last December.

He may not be popular with the IOC, which originally withdrew his accreditation for Tokyo, but he too is a capable leader.

The Pan American Federation led the way with online competitions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Its website is a long way ahead of anything on offer from other continental federations - and if that sounds trivial, it is not.

Communications is one of the biggest areas of concern for the IWF.

Antonio Urso, the Italian Federation President and a candidate today, described the IWF’s marketing and communications processes as "totally absent."

Quinones understands that and he may do something about it in the near future.

Old Guard as reformers?

Don’t hold your breath, but it could happen.