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Abhinav Bindra takes IOA to task over impending disaffiliation

“If our Olympic association is banned, it could be a blessing in disguise. With no multi-sport event in 2013, Indian athletes could afford a moratorium of three to six months, and unite to change the present system.”- Abhinav Bindra

The Indian Olympic Association may soon be disaffiliated by the International Olympic Committee. All this over an issue which comes across as trifling. There are differing points of view between the IOA and IOC and the Sports Code is clashing with the guidelines of the IOC. Pretty murky issue; for details, check this out.

At the end of that article, I’ve put in a petition through Change.org to call for the IOC to abide by the guidelines imposed by the IOA. But after reading what Abhinav Bindra has to say on the issue, it seems that this wouldn’t be too much of a bad thing.

“When the IOA and national sports federations’ (NSFs) existence depends on the sports ministry’s funding, then don’t they want to be accountable?”- Bindra asks.

The issue of accountability is relevant here. At the Olympic Congress held in Copenhagen in 2009, the following conclusion was reached: ‘In accordance with the principles and values of Olympism, the practice of sport must be run by independent, autonomous sport organisations, which are in full compliance with applicable laws.’

What the issue boils down to for India is whether to uphold the guideline of IOC or that of the government. The government has passed the Sports Code and the IOC feels that the code is in conflict with its policy. The IOA stresses that they are well in the clear: “These elections are not violating any of the three Codes — Olympic Charter, Sports Code or the Delhi High Court order. No nominations have been rejected by the Election Commission. We hope the IOC does not take action against us since there are no violations,” IOA acting chief V.K. Malhotra said.

If the IOA indeed believes that it is well in the clear with the Sports Code being in line with the guidelines of the IOC, why then don’t they simply comply with the guidelines of the IOC instead of putting on the front that they have nothing to change? It’s like a man claiming to be a bullet-proof Superman going around bragging about being bullet-proof, and one day Tony Stark comes along and asks him to put on a bullet-proof vest and get shot at. If he is indeed bullet-proof, it should make no difference. If he is not bullet-proof, even then it should make no difference as the vest will protect him either way. The only reason to decline wearing the vest is that there is some other issue here which the so called Superman doesn’t want to address. Issue of accountability in some other area.

The IOA is citing the guideline mentioned at the Olympic Congress at Copenhagen, but that also went on to mention that the Olympic body ought to resist all pressures which may prevent them from complying with the Olympic Charter.

“I firmly believe that that IOA should adopt the changes, as recommended in the sports code, in their constitution. If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rules for good governance, then why aren’t those rules good enough for the IOA?”- said Bindra.

The IOA elections are due on December 25. Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in custody last year following corruption charges that plagued the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and is out on bail, was recently confirmed for the post of secretary general of the IOA. His rival Randhir Singh has withdrawn his nomination for the post. Jagdish Tytler, the IOA vice-president and his panel have also decided to withdraw from the election. “I knew it. I knew the consequences. That is why we decided to stay away from the mess.” Tytler said.

Bindra concluded: “I am not concerned about myself or the athletes of my generation, but I am more concerned about the youngsters, those up-and-coming athletes, who don’t have a voice. It is highly frustrating and de-motivating for them. A momentum was created in the last two years and India cannot afford to break that. My proposal to all squabbling IOA administrators is to go on a TV reality show and leave the present job to experts. It would be a good compromise as they could even earn legitimate money. The best would be to go for a serial like Big Boss. The show would suit some of them as it has an in-house jail as well.”

The ideal scenario would be that India doesn’t get disaffiliated and the IOA begins to operate in accordance with the IOC and in the best interests of the athletes. But every cloud has a silver lining. If India is indeed disaffiliated, it would be a matter of shame. But at least we will get a chance to start afresh with a clean slate.

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