One or Three Officials?

by Al Myers

Chad Ullom officiating the 2011 IAWA World Championships sitting in the Head Judges chair. Would you trust this guy to make the only call in the 1-Official System?? He looks half asleep to me.

A very good question was brought up recently on our USAWA Facebook Page regarding the use of officials (BTW – if you have not joined our USAWA Facebook Page by now, make sure to join as it is a constant source of current information, along with numerous meet pictures).  The question involved how many officials are required to be used in competition.  The confusion on this matter arises because the USAWA allows the 1-Official System to be used, whereas the IAWA sanctioned competitions requires that all meets be officiated using three officials.  The upcoming World Postal Meet is an IAWA sanctioned event, so THREE OFFICIALS (or two as I’ll explain later) MUST be used to enter lifts in this postal meet.  This meet is different than our USAWA Postal Meets where they may be officiated using  just one official. 

First, let me review the USAWA Rules regarding the Official’s Systems that are in place:

VII. OFFICIALS

4.  Two systems are approved for officiating USAWA competitions or events.

  • One Official System – The competition or event will be officiated by only one certified official.  This system is recommended for small competitions or events, such as record days or postal competitions.
  • Three Official System – The competition or event will be officiated by three certified officials.  Approval of the lift requires a minimum of 2 officials deeming the lift good.  This system is recommended for large competitions or events, such as the National Championship.

Second, these are the IAWA Rules regarding the use of three officials:

V1.   OFFICIALS

  • All officials must be approved by their National Governing Body, or IAWA where there is no NGB
  • Three officials should be used for all competitions, and for exhibitions also where possible (though World Records can be established with only two officials present, so long as both pass the lift).

The USAWA membership voted and passed, allowing the 1-Official System to be in place, at the 2006 Annual Meeting.  This issue was brought forth to the membership by Bill Clark.  If I remember right, it seemed at the meeting that pretty much everyone in attendance was in agreement with the vote.  I do know now that not all of the members of the USAWA believe in the 1-Official System and don’t use it at all in their gym meets.   Art Montini has told me that himself and the Ambridge “Gang” will not use the 1-Official System in their meets EVER!  This issue was presented at the IAWA meeting as well that year in Scotland.  After the discussion in which it appeared to me that most everyone was against the 1-Official System, a motion was never made to introduce the 1-Official System.  Thus the IAWA still requires 3 officials, while in the USAWA the 1-Official System and the 3-Official System is allowed.   But even if the 3-Official System is used, a meet could be done with ONLY 2 officials and fall within the realms of the IAWA rules.  However, both officials must agree that it is a good lift (read IAWA above – the second line).   If just one official feels that it is a bad lift, then it is a no lift.  So in a sense, since you only need two “white lights” for a good lift in the 3-Official System, you are assuming the nonexistent third official has given you a red  in the imaginary chair!    How does this impact records?  First of all, any USAWA record can be established using either system.  For IAWA World Records, the 3-Official System must be used, including any USAWA meet.

Now for my opinion on this subject, which hasn’t changed from the day it was proposed and passed in the USAWA.  No one can argue that 3 officials are always better than 1 official.  Using 3 officials, and one official makes a bad call it doesn’t fail the lift if it should be good (or pass the lift when it should be failed).   Three officials spreads the decision over more individuals, and hopefully with that, a better result could be obtained.  That is why I will always support using the 3 official System in big competitions where there are qualified officials present to allow for it.  The problem arises in small gym meets (like postals and record days) where the entry numbers are so small that lifters outnumber officials!  For these meets to even happen, the 1-Official System HAS TO BE IN PLACE to allow for officiating.  Otherwise, it becomes impossible to even conduct small meets, or enter postal meets.  I am also familiar with events having one official (like strongman competitions and the Highland Games) so I know that one good official can do a good job and make the right call.  Why is there not three officials in those events?  The answer – they are not needed!  I feel the problem why the IAWA membership never accepted the 1-Official was tradition – weightlifters are very use to having three officials in the chairs and the thought of having  just one make the BIG DECISION was not something they wanted to accept.  I can’t imagine that the IAWA(UK) meets don’t have the same problem as us with properly trying to find 3 judges to judge small meets, like this World Postal Meet.  Maybe with time, IAWA will come “on board” with the 1-Official System and be the same as the USAWA on this.  Without a doubt,  requiring 3 officials in this World Postal Meet will hurt participation.

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