Weightlifting Fiji has rejected claims by Commonwealth Games champion Eileen Cikamatana that she was told to relocate to Suva to work under a new national head coach.
The 19-year-old lifter, who won gold in the women's under 90kg division on the Gold Coast earlier this year, was part of the Levuka weightlifting community that has now split away from Weightlifting Fiji claiming the national body has mistreated and bullied their athletes.
Cikamatana has vowed to never represent Fiji again in international competition and said Weightlifting Fiji tried to force athletes to train in Suva under Iranian coach Hossein Tavakoli against their wishes.
The New Caledonia-based lifter said the final straw was when the athletes were told to apologise and asked to sign forms accepting blame for the split and promising to return to Fiji.
But Weightlifting Fiji President Atma Maharaj said a letter sent to stakeholders on May 17 showed the governing body excluded Eileen Cikamatana from a requirement to train in Suva and enabled her to keep training under Paul Coffa at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute in Noumea.
"Weightlifting Fiji is an autonomous body and accordingly, Mr. Tavakoli will train all elite Weightlifting Fiji lifters in Suva with immediate effect under the Weightlifting Fiji program. This will exclude Eileen Cikamatana, for the time being," stated the letter, that was provided to RNZ Pacific.
"Weightlifting Fiji will continue with the current arrangements of Eileen training at the Oceania Weightlifting Institute. Weightlifting Fiji will review these arrangements in due course as required and, after discussions with Eileen, her current coach (Paul Coffa) and Mr Tavakoli, a decision will be made on her future training arrangements."
Atma Maharaj said, despite being allowed to continue training in Noumea, Eileen Cikamatana still needed to develop a working relationship with Hossein Tavakoli if she was to represent Fiji at international events.
"Eileen was left alone to train with Paul Coffa. She was not going to be affected by the international coach but a working relationship needed to be developed as she was still Fiji's athlete and thus athletes need to work with the national head coaches at competitions, exactly like all other Fiji Teams previously," he said.
"Most other progressive countries follow similar protocols. Weightlifting like all other sports is a team sport when it comes to national representation.
"All athletes in any national team come directly under the control of the Member Federation and the appointed head coach."
Mr Maharaj said Weightlifting Fiji wanted Eileen Cikamatana to attend this year's Junior and Senior World Championships but it was her choice to boycott representing Fiji and to remove herself from competing.
"Eileen will be out of the Olympics and the World Championships only by her own decisions," he said.
"We wish to reiterate that she made these decisions to stay out of these events, most likely based on advice from her family and coaches.
"If Eileen decides to follow the process of reinstatement, she could be competing in 2019 Junior World Championships and the 2020 Olympics Games. There is still a window of opportunity. The choice is hers."