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Indian Sports Federations open can of worms

FEATURED COLUMNIST
07 Dec 2012, 18:45 IST
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This is so contradictory it defies belief. On one hand the IOA was suspended for sticking to the sports code thick and thin. The IOC can say what it wants, the IOA is answerable to the law of the land. Ok, fine, the code is law. Immovable. Must be adhered to.

On the other hand, the Archery Association of India has been suspended for not sticking to the Sports Code. It’s like the federations are in a race of their own to see how many different and creative ways they can get disaffiliated.

It doesn’t stop there. The Indian Boxing Federation has also been suspended by the AIBA for shady elections. The IABF was formerly led by Abhay Singh Chautala, who was also elected as the president of the Indian Olympic Association.

Abhay Singh Chautala (background) and Vijender Singh (R)

A can of worms has been opened. It seems like a stack of dominoes. The hammer has fallen on the IOA and the chips are quick to fall across sports bodies in India. In Hindi there’s a saying, “Jab Bhagwan deta hai, chappar fad ke deta hai.” (When God gives, he gives plenty). Same is true for when he takes. The fall of the IOA was inevitable and the fact that we went ahead with the elections by flouting the IOC in this regard, says a lot about the importance our sports bodies place on protocols.

It was like standing on a rail track in front of a loudly chugging, whistle-shrieking train whose driver is waving a red flag, pointing a laser pointer at you to alert you, has written about the impending doom in detail, made paper airplanes out of it and is throwing them at you to warn you, and yet you continue to blithely smile in a bovine manner and stroll towards the train.

We all knew this would happen. IOA would get suspended if it kept walking in the path of the incoming train. A train engineered by its own karma. The fact that India’s national Olympic Association has been suspended by the IOC is not a surprise. But what that suspension has done is open up a can of worms.

Now the IABF has been suspended by the AIBA and the Indian boxers are caught in the crossfire. AIBA has issued a statement saying “AIBA had learned about possible manipulation of the recent IABF’s election. AIBA will now investigate this election and especially a potential political link between IOA President, as former Chairman of the IABF, and the IABF election.”

Abhishek Matoria, president of IABF said: “AIBA had specific queries about the election process and we had explained to them that there was no manipulation. Those who got elected were unanimous choices and just because there was unanimity, the AIBA cannot allege manipulation. This is a provisional suspension and I am sure it would be lifted soon after we explain our stand to AIBA. If need be, I will personally go and speak to AIBA officials in Lausanne.”

The athletes are disheartened. “It is a sad day for Indian boxing and I can’t understand how such a development can take place. I don’t understand why the matter was not explained to AIBA. The next AIBA event is quite far but hopefully we would not sit on it for too long and get the suspension revoked as soon as possible.” - Vijender Singh.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (L) along with the President of the Indian Olympic Association Vijay Kumar Malhotra (R)

With pressure mounting and scrutiny coming in from all sides, the Archery Association of India has also been suspended by the Union Ministry of Sports. It was alleged that the Archery Association of India violated the Sports Code. The AAI election was held in November when Vijay Kumar Malhotra was elected its president for a tenth consecutive term, spanning a period of 40 years.

One wistfully thinks that the archers and boxers are at least capable of punching and shooting the wrongdoers in this case. Our federations were trying to see how far they can push the international governing bodies. Now we are finding out and the chips are quick to fall everywhere.

We were opening a Pandora’s box, and it has turned out to be a can of worms.  One hopes that there is a bright side to this shameful cloud. As Abhinav Bindra has repeatedly said, this may be a blessing in disguise. The disaffiliation/suspension of the age old bodies makes room for fresh bodies to be formed. And formation of fresh bodies coming on the heels of shameful suspensions doubles the pressure to form bodies which perform their duties diligently.

“A few responsible guys should take care of the running of federations, and we as athletes should concentrate on bringing laurels to the country. This affects the minds of every athlete, and it’s not good for India.”- Vijender Singh.

Imagine having to run a 100m race, while glancing behind you to see if someone is throwing projectiles at you. Think about boxing and covering your flank exposed to the opponent while protecting your blindside behind you. The sportspersons ought to concentrate on their training and development. Do the officials run and train and worry about what the athletes are supposed to do? Why then should we place our athletes in a position where they have to take stock of not only their responsibility, but also wonder about what is happening behind the scenes and worry if they will even be able to represent their country?

“Though I don’t know on what basis this has been done, but it is certainly very bad for India’s sports history. It affects the morale of every sportsperson in the country. Our boxers have been performing well in the recent times, so I don’t know what went wrong.”- Vijender Singh

What went wrong was that we tried to see how far we can push our luck. The international sports bodies which govern national sports bodies are a little more professional. They don’t rant and rail, they act. A courteous person when being pushed, steps back to see if push would come to shove. If it did, then the person pushing would trip and fall at the sudden replacement of resistance with a decisive action which pushes it into the ground.

The box has been opened. The dominoes are falling. It remains to be seen if something good can be built over the rubble.

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