Intarat appointed interim International Weightlifting Federation chief

Intarat appointed interim International Weightlifting Federation chief

Sport's Paris 2024 status back in peril

Maj Gen Intarat Yodbangtoey addresses a press conference recently. Intarat has been appointed interim president of the world weightlifting governing body.
Maj Gen Intarat Yodbangtoey addresses a press conference recently. Intarat has been appointed interim president of the world weightlifting governing body.

Thailand's Maj Gen Intarat Yodbangtoey has taken over as interim president of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) after Ursula Papandrea of the United States was removed from the post in a boardroom putsch.

Wednesday's announcement by the IWF was followed by news reports that the place of weightlifting at the 2024 Paris Olympics was under threat after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was "very worried" about the latest development in the sport's governing body.

Papandrea, who became the first woman to head the IWF when she took over in January, was removed after an executive board vote at an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

"The IOC is very worried to learn about the reported decision made by the Board of the International Weightlifting Federation to replace the Acting President, Ms Ursula Garza Papandrea, the way the decision was taken and the chosen replacement," the IOC said in a statement.

"The IOC enjoyed excellent cooperation with her during her time in office, and is fully supportive of the reforms she has initiated in the IWF."

A statement published on the IWF website said "strong concerns of the IOC regarding the governance reforms, and the perceived lack of progress, are also the immediate concern of the EB [executive board].

"During the meeting the EB decided to revoke the appointment of Ursula Papandrea as Acting Interim President.

"According to the IWF Constitution & By-Laws, ... the 1st Vice President [Major General Intarat Yodbangtoey] automatically fulfils the President's functions in case of vacancy."

Regarding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualification system, the IWF confirmed its commitment to the original criteria, but added that discussions would be opened with the IOC to "find solutions to mitigate the effects of Covid-19, the cancellation of qualification events and the possibility that competitions might not restart or be held in full before the end of the qualification period".

The IOC said the power grab "and its consequences will, of course, be taken into consideration by the IOC executive board".

The Olympic body had already threatened last week to "reconsider the place of weightlifting on the programme of the Olympic Games in Paris 2024".

In December it must make a final decision on the events and quotas of athletes for the Paris Olympics.

Thailand is one of the three nations banned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games because of its doping record.

Intarat's appointment comes despite the fact that Thai weightlifters are barred from the Tokyo Olympics because of several doping cases.

Intarat, a former president of the Thai Amateur Weightlifting Association (Tawa), had termed the IWF ban as "too harsh and unfair" in a statement in April this year.

"Tawa will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to seek fairness," Intarat had said earlier.

Thai weightlifters were not allowed to compete at the world championships which the country hosted last year after a doping scandal.

Nine Thais including two reigning Olympic champions -- Sukanya Srisurat and Sopita Tanasan -- were suspended after positive drug tests in November, prompting Thailand to voluntarily ban itself from world championships in Pattaya as well as the Tokyo Olympics.

Tawa later pushed for the inclusion of the athletes who had not tested positive for doping into the two events, but its appeal was rejected by the IWF.

Weightlifting has been in turmoil since January when German TV channel ARD broadcast a documentary which revealed what it described as a "culture of corruption" in the sport intended to mask the use of doping.

Hungary's Tamas Ajan, 81, chairman of the IWF for 20 years after serving as its secretary general, rejected the accusations as "lies" before being pressured into resigning in April.

He had originally stepped aside for 90 days while an independent investigation set about examining the ARD claims which largely focused on him.

According to the documentary, until 2017 weightlifters were being exempted from many doping controls, and test results were being altered in exchange for bribes. It also said nearly €4.5 million paid to the IWF by the IOC were transferred to accounts in Switzerland over which Ajan alone exercises control.  Bangkok Post/AFP



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