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Open Letter to Weightlifters

Dear weightlifters,

Athletes have always been the beating heart of weightlifting. This is central to the International Weightlifting Federation’s values and we have a number of mechanisms that allow us to listen carefully to the athletes’ voice. We always aim not only to be good listeners, but to be as responsive as we can be to the views of all weightlifters.

It was with great interest that I read the statement that has been circulated on behalf of representatives of the USA Weightlifting Athletes’ Committee, as well as the Athletes Advisory Committee of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Global Athlete, dated 25 November. Please allow me to start by recognising the clarity of the views it expressed and also the determination it showed to ensure that fairness and independence remain the foundations of our approach to anti-doping.

We were very encouraged to see athletes acknowledging the progress we have made, especially in recent years, towards ensuring weightlifting is a clean sport. After all, nothing less than the Olympic status of our sport depends on these efforts.

In particular, I appreciate the concern over any proposals whereby sanctioning powers might be returned to the IWF Executive Board, for whose members a conflict of interest may exist. I share the view that doing this would not only be a step backwards, but would fail to honour our commitments to athletes, Member Federations, the global weightlifting family, the IOC and WADA. Furthermore, it would give the impression that such sensitive decisions may be politically influenced.

The current panel for sanctioning Member Federations consists of independent members: Richard Young, Ulrich Haas, Andrea Gotzmann, Andrew Pipe and Ben Sandford. Their independence and their anti-doping expertise are unquestionable and widely recognised.

I fully support independence – but real independence. Instead of moving backwards, I strongly believe we should move forwards and increase the independence of the sanctioning process, notably for individuals with anti-doping rule violations which are committed by athletes and athlete support personnel.

In order to progress, it would seem appropriate for the IWF to consider how sanctioning individual athletes and their supporting personal can be completely independent.

To go a step further would involve the sanctioning of individuals being handled by a body that is completely independent of the IWF. In order to prepare for compliance with the 2021 WADA Code already, I will propose to the IWF Executive Board and fully support cooperating with the Anti-Doping Division of the Court of Arbitration in Sport. This would ensure that only independent expert arbitrators adjudicate those cases where hearings are requested by the individuals concerned.

By choosing this solution, the IWF would adopt the most rigorous approach available to us. It is the same solution that applies to athletes at the Olympic Games, who are no longer sanctioned by the IOC in the case of anti-doping rule violations. Instead, these cases are also adjudicated by the Anti-Doping Division of the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

In the meantime, please know that I am committed to ensuring the IWF continues to look ahead, not behind, listening to and protecting clean athletes. This commitment remains based on my firm belief that all athletes should be treated in the same equal, fair and independent way when it comes to clean sport.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Tamas Ajan

IWF President

IOC Honorary member