August 29, 2007
L.J. Maile, President
This past couple months have shown us both the highs and the depths of our experience in powerlifting. As with all human pursuits, the times we have and the experiences we share with our fellow competitors and friends is most important. Several events stand out as some of the best of times, both in life and in sport.
Our Men's National Championships were held in St. Louis in July and proved to be a great competition. This year's event was marked by very close races in a number of classes, culminating with the deciding deadlift in the superheavy class that decided the gold medal. From start to finish, it was exciting. As important, this years' competition was marked by some of the best sportsmanship that we have seen in years. Many of the eventual winners cheered on their competitors, and probably the best example of this was Jeff Lewis encouraging Brad Gillingham to pull the lift that put Jeff in the silver medal slot. It really just doesn't get any better than that and we consider ourselves fortunate to have both of these gentlemen among our competitors.
The National Governing Body meeting saw the changing of the guard on our E.C. Bill Clayton, active in USAPL for more than 20 years passed on his position on the Executive to Eliot Feldman. Bill has been a pillar of USAPL since the mid 80's, serving as State Chair, Chair of several Committees, Referee, and competitor. Bill's current job duties preclude him sharing the time he feels necessary to make a contribution that he can be proud of.
Among the interesting items passed at the NGB meeting are the initiation of a raw nationals. The first competition will go to Mr. Harold Gaines and his able crew in St. Louis. We will also see a combined Men's Teen and Juniors with the Men's Nationals next year. The women's program has benefitted from the easy progression from the junior ranks to the open by having a combined meet, and the men's program is expected to prosper with this change as well.
We have had two international competitions this summer: the North American and the Pan American Championships. The North American's was held in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and the Pan Am's in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Both meets were well run and represented the best of sportsmanship among the nations. At the end of the day, it is comforting to know that we are all "Americans" whether from South, Central, or North America. In succeeding years, we will hold the Pan Am's every two years, with continental championships (the North American and South American Championships, separately) on alternating years. This makes for less division of the athletes among competing meets.
As we come to the IPF election year, several items are on the agenda that bear significantly on the future of powerlifting. Probably the most important of these is the election of the IPF Executive. Incumbent President Norbert Wallauch of Austria has decided not to stand for re-election and there are three other members of the E.C. who will (no, I am not among them). In addition, there are three candidates for General Secretary including our own Robert Keller. I am sure that there will be some aggressive campaigning in the next month or so.
Another series of items will decide the future of the bench shirt. Alternatives involve establishing stretch criteria, discontinuing the bench shirt altogether, or leaving the bench shirt as it is now. The USAPL proposal is to leave things as they stand now. It is our concern that many changes in rules, equipment, and performance standards will only make for confusion among the athletes. We also feel strongly that consistency in competition conditions and the input of the athletes is essential to build a strong federation. Decisions should not be made in the rarefied air of senior management without considering the sentiments of those most affected: the lifters themselves.
The final matter represents the very most difficult of my involvement in powerlifting. One of the USAPL Executive has been arrested for alleged sexual impropieties involving those under age. Mr. Jim Hart's membership is suspended immediately and indefinitely and he is no longer on the E.C. We hope that these allegations prove not to be true, especially for the sake of Jim and his family, but at the same time we must act immediately and aggressively to protect our members. It is difficult to hear such damning allegations about someone we know, but my experience in the criminal justice system shows that you can never really know what someone's private thoughts or behavior are. It is impossible to understand how the actions we see in a public setting lead to overt criminal acts. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the case. Many of us in powerlfting are "eccentric" but despite being a little strange, we must also keep in mind that virtually all of our members are good, solid people who enjoy athletics and try to do their best by others.
We extend our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this and hope that all involved find healing as best they are able.