IWF Rule Changes: Challenge Cards and Feet Touching the Barbell
The International Weightlifting Federation made some rulebook changes recently, and social media has been tittering with conversation about them. There were quite a few changes, but two specific ones caught my eye.
1) Lifters are no longer allowed to touch the barbell with their feet. If this happens on the competition platform, that attempt will automatically be red-lighted.
2) Lifters are now going to be given challenge cards when they compete. They can use these cards to challenge a decision by the referees/jury, and the jury will go to video playback technology to analyze the lift in question and make a final call. In other words, it’s instant replay. For those of you who are familiar with referee challenges and instant replay in NFL football, it’s a very similar system. (The exact procedure for using a challenge card is written in the updated rulebook. For the sake of keeping this article concise, I’m not going to walk you through it in detail. Check it out yourself.)
First, I want to look at the no-foot-touching-the-barbell rule. I think it’s a stupid rule change. I don’t think it’s earth-shakingly terrible, so I’m not going to spill blood over it. I just think it’s dumb, and I’ll explain myself by giving my perspective on the reasoning I’ve heard behind it.
It’s a cleanliness issue. Your feet are unclean, so they shouldn’t touch the barbell:
I’ve been in weightlifting a long time, and I’ve never seen a lifter put on shoes and go stomping through a field of pig feces prior to warming up in the snatch. Lifting shoes touch the floors of weightlifting rooms, which usually aren’t exceptionally unsanitary places.
Plus, lifters touch the barbell with their HANDS. They also spend the day using their hands to blow their noses, pull wedgies out of their asses, adjust their crotches, etc. Most lifters also spend a portion of their warmup/stretch routine putting their hands on the FLOOR…you know, that same dirty place we’re so terrified of? So if we really want to go 100% on this cleanliness thing, we probably need to make another rule that lifters can’t put their hands on the barbell, because you can easily make a case that the hands are just as unsanitary as the bottoms of weightlifting shoes. And I won’t even get into the obvious point of policing what people do with their hands before they leave the bathroom.
I’ve heard people say there’s a religious basis for this foot-touching rule. I have respect for everybody’s religious beliefs and cultures, but it’s a slippery slope to make religion the foundation for sport rules.
Touching the barbell with your feet is disrespectful:
Says who? Russia and other European countries? Okay, gotcha. So we’re going to learn about respectful behavior from people who have absolutely no respect for the rules of the sport (doping)? Let’s think about that one for a second.
I don’t consider it disrespectful whatsoever to touch the barbell with your feet, and I’m a weightlifter with a lifetime love for it. It’s an inanimate object, for Pete’s sake. If we want to start conversations about how the barbell is a living thing with a soul or some other kind of philosophical angle like that, we could just as easily say it’s an enemy that doesn’t deserve respect. That’s not my argument, of course. I’m making a point that these metaphysical opinions about the barbell shouldn’t be the basis for rules because they’re all just…opinions. They aren’t facts, even if some of your heroes say they are.
There’s no need to test the spin of the barbell with your foot because competition barbells will all spin well:
Not necessarily. I competed in a World University Championship once where I used my foot to test the bar’s spin on the competition platform prior to my first snatch. The whole barbell, plates and all, rolled back towards me. It was like a powerlifting bar. It had the worst spin of any barbell I’ve ever lifted on. I also competed in a National Championship once where the competition barbell kept locking up throughout the competition. Three lifters suffered severe elbow injuries at that meet as a result. So…you don’t always have a guarantee that the barbell is going to be spinning correctly when it’s going over your head with heavy weight on it. Testing it with your foot is a good way to know for sure.
Can you just as easily reach down and test it with your hand? Sure you can. And that’s what I’ll start doing now, along with many others probably. As I said in the beginning, this rule change isn’t the end of the world, and I’m not pitching an armageddon-level fit about it. But I don’t like it and I think it’s unnecessary. That’s all.
Now, about the challenge cards… My thoughts on this one will be much shorter.
I’m undecided on it because I think we’re going to have to wait and see how it actually plays out in the future to know if it’s a good change or not. Refereeing and jury calls seem to be getting worse over time, from my perspective. So I support the idea of giving lifters and coaches a method to fight back when they get screwed over.
But will these challenge cards be good for the competition as a whole? That’s the question that sticks out to me. As it says in the updated rulebook, the competition will stop when a lifter or coach presents a challenge card to the technical controller. And there’s no specified time limit on how long the jury will have to make a final decision. The rulebook simply says they’ll get it settled as quickly as possible. This makes me nervous because I worry about long delays that will slow down the contest and screw up coaches who are trying to count attempts for their athletes and keep their warmups moving effectively.
Long story short, I think the new rule about the feet on the barbell is a poor change that doesn’t have solid reasoning behind it. With the challenge cards, I like the basic idea behind it because I’ve had lifters get screwed over by judges before. But I don’t know if it’ll be a good change for the sport as a whole.
Regardless, I encourage all of you to read the updated rule changes and familiarize yourself with them. If you’re going to be involved in competition in this sport, you need to know this stuff forwards and backwards.