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More turmoil as IWF appoints third leader in three days

LONDON (Reuters) - The troubled International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has appointed its third interim president in as many days, with Britain’s Michael Irani taking over from Thailand’s Intarat Yodbangtoey.

Yodbangtoey had replaced American Ursula Papandrea in the role after an emergency meeting of the executive board on Tuesday.

The IWF, whose future as an Olympic sport is at risk, said Irani, chair of the medical committee and former chair of the anti-doping commission, was appointed interim president on Thursday.

“I do not intend to stand as a candidate for the IWF President position in the future, so I will be able to focus fully on the reforms leading up to a clear and transparent IWF Congress,” said Irani, 71, in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Wednesday it was ‘very worried’ by the replacement of Papandrea, the way the decision had been taken and the chosen replacement.

USA Weightlifting and Britain’s BWL governing body issued strong statements after Yodbangtoey’s appointment, accusing the IWF board of blocking reform.

The Americans called for an extraordinary congress to be convened by the end of November while the BWL said the executive board should stand down immediately.

The www.insidethegames.biz website reported that Antonio Urso, president of the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF), had resigned from the board in protest after Irani's appointment.

“I no longer share the political line of this Board, which seems to me crazy and destructive of the future of world weightlifting,” it quoted him as saying.

The sport, rocked by revelations of doping cover-ups and decades of corruption, was warned by the IOC in June that it risks being cut from the Paris 2024 Olympics and subsequent Games.

The IWF board elected Papandrea in January after 81-year-old president Tamas Ajan, a Hungarian, stepped aside during a corruption probe.

Ajan, who eventually resigned in April, had been at the IWF since 1976, serving 24 years as general secretary and 20 as president.

Richard McLaren, the Canadian law professor whose findings in July 2016 led to Russia being banned from all international athletic competitions, including the Rio Olympics, told reporters in June that the IWF was rife with corruption.

This included vote buying, doping cover-ups and $10.4 million in cash that cannot be accounted for. Ajan denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge

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