India scrambles to avoid Olympic ban
NEW DELHI (AFP) –
India’s sports chiefs began last-ditch efforts to prevent the country from being suspended from the Olympic movement, but stuck to their stand of electing tainted officials.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board, which meets in Lausanne on December 4 and 5, will decide if India should be suspended for flouting the Olympic charter in its election process.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had been directed by a Delhi court to hold elections according to the government’s sports code, while the IOC wanted it to abide by the Olympic charter that favours autonomy.
Elections to the faction-ridden IOA are due to be held on December 5, but have become a formality after a rival group led by IOC member Randhir Singh withdrew from the contest last month.
It left tainted sports official Lalit Bhanot elected unopposed as the IOA’s secretary-general, while Haryana state politician Abhey Singh Chautala was set to take over as president.
Bhanot is out on bail after being held in custody for 11 months last year over corruption charges during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi when he was secretary-general of the organising committee.
The IOC Ethics Commission had in October warned the Indian body against fielding either Bhanot or former IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi — who is also on bail over corruption charges.
Chautala, known to be a close associate of Kalmadi, said there was nothing wrong in Bhanot contesting elections since he had not been convicted.
“Many people have cases pending against them, but they can’t be called guilty till the courts say so,” Chautala told reporters last week. “Bhanot has every right to contest.”
Chautala said two IOA members had been deputed to meet IOC officials in Lausanne ahead of the possible vote against India at the Executive Board meeting.
Suspension from IOC membership would mean India would not receive IOC funding and its officials would be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events.
India’s athletes would also be barred from competing in the Olympics under the national flag, although the IOC could allow some to take part under the Olympic flag.
India’s lone individual Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra said seeing Bhanot elected as the IOA secretary-general made his “blood boil”.
“It’s about politics and stooping to a new low,” rifle shooter Bindra wrote in the Hindustan Times on Sunday. “It is agonising to see such people coming back.”
But he added: “If our Olympic association is banned, it could be a blessing in disguise. With no multi-sport event in 2013, Indian athletes could… unite to change the present system.”
Clean Sports India (CSI), a body of former sportspersons seeking a corruption-free sports administration, also supported the IOC’s stand.
“If medicines do not work, it needs a surgery,” said CSI official and former shooter Morad Ali Khan. “IOC’s threat of suspension is a surgery for the Indian sporting system.”