UPDATED: May 24, 2023 at 3:40PM MDT
5/24: USOPC letter re: Policy on the Bidding, Awarding and Hosting of Weightlifting Competitions Sanctioned by USA Weightlifting
Following our open letter from 5/3 we have seen a number of similar questions that we thought were best answered in a broad communication to our membership.
Q: Is it true that members of the USAW Masters Council formed a new corporation for masters weightlifting without consulting USAW?
Yes. USAW learned over this past weekend that, in April, committee members of the USAW Masters Council established a separate nonprofit corporation for masters weightlifting, distinct from and unaffiliated with USAW. This new entity was created without consulting with, or notice to, USAW's Board of Directors or USAW staff.
USAW reached out directly to the five USAW committee members formally listed on the corporate filings as “incorporators” of the new entity (which is incorporated in the state of Georgia) with questions, concerns, and requests for more information. We have yet to receive a substantive response.
Prior to learning of this new organization being formed, we moved decisively to better manage conflicts of interest in the bidding, awarding, and hosting of WSO Championships and national events, including National Masters. We will continue to emphasize the proper management of conflicts of interest among our committee members. The formation of a new corporation by existing committee members, without any consultations, raises critical questions and concerns.
USAW is evaluating our next steps to ensure this new entity does not risk our standing with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee or undermine trust within our masters community.
Q: Will the 2024 National Masters competition be in Reno?
A: This is still to be determined. We expect to announce this summer the final location and dates for this 2024 event. The new USAW Policy on Bidding, Awarding and Hosting of Weightlifting Competitions Sanctioned by USA Weightlifting, as approved by the USAW Board, states that the awarding and/or hosting of this event will be done by USAW staff. The announcement of specific dates and Reno as the destination for the 2024 National Masters by our Masters Council was premature and defied specific instructions from the USAW Board. We have great relationships with the City of Reno and the local weightlifting community and are in discussions with both to explore the possibility of bringing this event to Reno in 2024.
Q: Is USAW going to run the Howard Cohen American Masters competition?
A: No. The Howard Cohen American Masters operates under a local competition sanction because it is not a National Championship event nor part of the North American Open Series/Finals. Per the new USAW Policy on Bidding, Awarding, and Hosting of Weightlifting Competitions Sanctioned by USA Weightlifting, the awarding of hosting and/or operating responsibilities for local competitions will be done by the competition director/organizer. We anticipate that the USAW Masters Council will continue to use a bidding process to organize this local event and it will remain as a qualifier for international Masters competitions.
Q: Why did USADA decline to do testing at Pan Am Masters?
A: USADA stated that based on the anti-doping rules that apply to this event it “couldn’t play a role in an event where the anti-doping program does not align with best practices or our mission to protect clean athletes.” When USAW engages USADA to test domestic masters events, the World Anti-Doping Code and the USADA Protocol are the rules that apply. That is not the case for the Pan Am Masters competition, which is subject to the newly formed International Masters Weightlifting Association’s (IMWA) anti-doping rules. As noted in our open letter, the IMWA adopted anti-doping rules that explicitly state that the IMWA is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code and explicitly delegate important responsibilities for management of anti-doping test results to the Hungarian national anti-doping organization (HUNADO). USAW believes that the IMWA’s approach to anti-doping is not good enough. It appears that USADA, the leading anti-doping organization in the world, agrees.
Q: We saw that the Pan Am Masters event is now being tested by an agency that uses a WADA-accredited laboratory. This fixes the situation, right?
A: No. This simply means that the lab being used to test the samples was accredited by WADA. It does nothing to address the issue that the anti-doping rules that apply to this event and the athletes are IMWA rules – and those rules do not meet the standard of the WADA Code or the USADA Protocol.
Q: Will records set at Pan Am Masters count?
A: This is not a USAW decision. USAW is not involved in validating records set at international competitions such as the Pan Am Masters and World Masters. Our strong recommendation is that any record set at an international competition be validated by drug testing conducted in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code as that is the gold standard and our athletes deserve nothing less than that standard.
Q: Is the International Masters Weightlifting Association associated with the International Weightlifting Federation?
A: As we understand it, no. IMWA appears to be a spin-off entity from the IWF. The IMWA rules specifically state that “The new Masters weightlifting governing body is now formally separated from the IWF, with a name that does not include the designation ‘IWF’ and an administrative structure that is completely separate from IWF.” As part of this separate administrative structure, the founders of the IMWA instituted rules that weaken anti-doping and weaken relationships with national governing bodies.
Q: Does USAW’s new policy change how I qualify for international masters competitions?
A: USAW’s policy change should not directly impact an athlete’s ability to qualify for international masters competitions. We expect those organizations who sanction international masters weightlifting competitions to accept results from all domestic national championship events operated by USAW, or where USAW awards the hosting and operations rights. To do otherwise would unnecessarily limit participation opportunities for athletes. USAW does not decide what criteria are used to qualify athletes for international masters competition as those criteria are set by whomever sanctions the international competition (e.g., IWF, IMWA, Pan Am Masters Weightlifting Federation, etc.).