IWF General Secretary Antonio Urso To Retire From Weightlifting

Antonio Urso, one of the leading campaigners against corruption in weightlifting over the past three decades, and overseer of Italy’s recent rise to prominence on the weightlifting platform, is leaving the sport.

Urso announced his decision at the European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria, which was held alongside the 2024 European Weightlifting Championships (EWC).

I have been thinking about this for three years.

He will leave in early 2025 when his term as general secretary — effectively number two — at the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) comes to an end. Urso’s future work, including research, will focus on how to train children in a range of sports.

Image courtesy of Brian Oliver

Who Is Antonio Urso?

The 61-year-old Italian academic and sports scientist was national champion 12 times in a 15-year lifting career. Urso spent 10 years in coaching, has been a senior international official for 16 years, and wrote the educational book Weightlifting: Sport for all Sports in 2014.

As leader of his national federation, Urso oversaw the plan for “success in a clean sport” that started in 2012. Long-term development work created “The Italian system,” which earned his country more medals than any other European nation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Antonio Urso | IWF Career

Urso was a member of the IWF board during the reign of Dr. Tamas Ajan, who was banned for life from weightlifting’s bureaucracy in 2022. Urso strongly criticized Ajan and lost two IWF presidential elections (2013 and 2017) to the Hungarian, who ruled the IWF as general secretary and president for 44 years. Urso believes those elections were rigged, though he did not offer proof to substantiate his claims at the time.

Urso, one of the auditors who found that several million dollars of Olympic revenues were unaccounted for by the IWF in 2013, was disappointed that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided not to act on the evidence.

Urso sent a dossier of evidence to the lawyer Richard McLaren, who exposed widespread financial, doping and vote-buying corruption in his 2020 report, eventually leading to Ajan’s downfall.

Image via @vahid77.fb on Instagram

Urso resigned from the “crazy and destructive” IWF in October 2020, when it had three presidents in three days, and returned as general secretary in controversial circumstances in June 2022 in an “extended vote”. Since then, Urso has focused on reform plans, along with others in the new regime led by president Mohamed Jalood.

Antonio Urso | EWF Career

Urso was first elected president of the EWF in Venice in 2008. Through his presidency of the continental federation (2008-2020), he had a seat on the IWF board. During his time at the EWF, Urso highlighted the need for reforms in governance, marketing, media coverage, building a relationship with CrossFit and other strength sports, competition formats, and “humanizing the lifters.”

At a national level, these ideas helped to transform Italian weightlifting. Urso was also editor and writer of several publications like The Scientific Basis of Sports Training and other content centered around weightlifting.

What This Means for Weightlifting

In both August 2022 and July 2023, Urso spoke in depth about the need for weightlifting to “step into the 21st century.” He said the sport was operating at 40 percent of its potential and outlined some needed changes.

Urso was vocal about his wanting the IWF to ditch the “press-out rule” — competitive weightlifters are not allowed to catch their barbells with bent elbows — and cut the number of referees required at competitions. No other senior IWF leaders are as outspoken on these topics as Urso.

Image via @p4d0 on Instagram

“My dream is to cancel the press-out, to make weightlifting simple — you lift the bar, or you don’t lift the bar,” Urso told insidethegames in 2023.

“We must reduce the enormous number of referees and technical officials in a competition, which is especially important in youth competitions. Young athletes should enjoy it, not worry about the referees — if their lift is not quite perfect, it’s okay.”

Many other changes, driven in part by Urso, have already happened or are on the way, thanks to the efforts of Jalood and his new board at the IWF. Ongoing improvements include:

Handing over all anti-doping operations to an independent body

Dual-platform competitions

Licensing coaches and holding them responsible for doping

Appointing highly qualified professionals as chief executive and media director

Creating a “roadmap for the future” through a long-term strategic plan

Candidates to replace Urso as IWF general secretary will put themselves forward by the end of 2024, ahead of elections in the early months of 2025 at a venue still to be decided.

Disclaimer: Brian Oliver is an Independent correspondent for BarBend. The views and opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect his own. Oliver is not directly affiliated with any of BarBend’s existing media partnerships.

Featured Image courtesy of Brian Oliver

The post IWF General Secretary Antonio Urso To Retire From Weightlifting appeared first on BarBend.


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