Power Struggle

European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) president Antonio Urso flexes his political muscles, following his fallout with the sport’s international governance.

“I thank the support of those who voted for me and I extend my hand to those who didn’t. We have to be united and we have to work hard for the future of weightlifting,” said Tamas Ajan, immediately after being re-elected IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) president in May 2013.

Ajan was referring to his rival at the election Antonio Urso – his European governing body counterpart – who the long-serving IWF head says launched a smear campaign against him in a bid to usurp the weightlifting throne (see below).

Urso – who is also president of the Italian Weightlifting Federation – claimed the IWF and Ajan were concealing Swiss bank accounts in which the IOC (International Olympic Committee) paid money into for the development of the sport. All the while, the IWF’s funds remained low, arousing suspicion of financial mismanagement of millions of dollars, according to Play the Game.

When asked to look into the situation by Urso, the IOC and CAS (The Court of Arbitration for Sport) kept their distance, citing their lack of authority in the matter.

How do you feel about the IWF and its president Tamas Ajan following your corruption allegations against them?
I have nothing personal against President Ajan and his leadership. My vision goes beyond that. What remains unclear to me is the international model of sport that we all follow nowadays. I find it static, to a great extent, and reluctant to change, despite the potential that sport is still able to demonstrate. Today everything moves so fast, which is why I wonder how this stationary position can possibly be functional. 

Do you feel let down by the IOC and CAS because they didn’t get involved?
No, I wouldn’t say let down. I accepted the sentence passed by the CAS because in everyday life I am used to respecting the rules. This, however, does not mean that I agree with it. Ultimately, in a response of almost 60 pages, I was praised for having undertaken the initiative, but it concluded by stating that the CAS could not pass judgement as many issues were not under its jurisdiction. To be honest, I would have expected more, but we peacefully respect their decision.

Why do you think you didn’t win IWF presidency in 2013?
Sports politics follow the same rules as the politics of any other type of organisation. If you expect logic and clear-cut rules, then you will be disappointed. I think that I didn’t win because my electoral programme could have deprived some power groups of certain privileges and, at the last minute, this swayed the handful of votes that would have helped me clinch the majority. Evidently, not everybody is ready to make that leap into the future.

Will you stand for IWF presidency again?
I will certainly run again for the presidency of the European Wrestling Federation, where – with great satisfaction – we are driving many innovative projects. If I am successful, I will consequently be part of the IWF Board and this, in any case, is a good opportunity to continue to present new ideas and approaches.

What needs to be done for the IWF to be united without internal conflict?
Conflict is one thing, and I don’t believe that there is conflict within the IWF; different points of view are another matter. I eagerly welcome different solutions to problems, as a healthy exchange of opinions leads to growth and is the essence of democracy.

Right of Reply

IWF president Tamas Ajan says the relationship between himself and European Weightlifting Federation leader, Antonio Urso, is good despite the “attack” on his reputation in 2013.

“First of all, it’s important to mention there was no issue [with IWF finances], that was just a political attack.

"Some people accused the IWF executive board of financial mismanagement, but nothing has been proved,” Ajan told SportBusiness International.

“This accusation came right before the elections, so I’m sure people understand that it was completely politically motivated. Since letters were sent to the IOC, it had to request documents from the IWF that we were happy to provide, and they immediately realised that there was no issue.

“We have a good relationship with Antonio Urso now, and I have emphasised a couple of times that this chapter is closed and I want to focus on the future not what’s happened in the past.”


To continue reading the Event Focus on the IWF World Weightlifting Championships, please click the links below:

1. Raising the Bar: Elisha Chauhan speaks to the key stakeholders of the 2015 IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) World Weightlifting Championships to find out how host city Houston plans to turn one of the original Olympic sports into a modern day spectacle.

2. Pulling Position: Elisha Chauhan spoke to a rights-holder and a sponsor about the commercial attractiveness of the IWF World Weightlifting Championships.

3. Marketing Muscle: Executives from the Lagardere sports agency reveal how they will be creating a Texas feel to the World Weightlifting Championships in its broadcasting production and distribution around the world.

4. Pumping Iron: President Tamas Ajan speaks about the growth of his IWF (International Weightlifting Federation) World Championships, as well as his crackdown on the sport’s biggest setback, doping.

Most recent

Second of a two-part report from the APOS 2020 Virtual Series, the online incarnation of the leading Asia-Pacific media, telecoms and entertainment industry conference hosted by Media Partners Asia.

NFL team the San Francisco 49ers are ready to play an active role in helping Leeds United become a Premier League force both on and off the field following the club's promotion to English soccer's top flight. SportBusiness speaks to 49ers Enterprises president Paraag Marathe.

Brendan Flood, chairman of the Global Institute of Sport (GIS), University Campus of Football Business (UCFB) and director at Burnley FC, explains how now, more than ever, the global sports industry must innovate to adapt to the global climate, and how specific knowledge and education is central to that

The slow-moving, divided nature of top-level professional boxing has left the sport’s highest echelons more vulnerable to the Covid-19 shutdown. Tyson vs. Jones Jr. proves that a little flexibility can go a long way. Callum McCarthy reports.