Karela Fry

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One of India’s best newspapers, the Chandigarh Tribune happens to the only newspaper which explains exactly why the International Olympic Committee has suspended the Indian organization:

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board that met in Lausanne on Tuesday is learnt to have suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) because of the application of the Sports Code in the IOA elections, though the IOA had not received an official communication in this regard till late evening.

The IOC had threatened the IOA of penal action if the Sports Code was applied in the IOA elections, but the Olympic body was forced to include the Sports Code in the election process following a Delhi High Court order. As a last and desperate measure, the IOA requested the IOC to permit two of its senior members – RK Anand and Hockey India secretary-general Narinder Batra — to visit Lausanne to explain the IOA’s stand on the Sports Code and the related controversy, but the IOC did not respond to the IOA request.

The IOC has been warning the IOA against application of the Sports Code in its elections which it felt would amount to “outside interference” and was in violation of the Olympic Charter. But the IOA did not think that the IOC will actually carry out its threat of suspension/de-recognition till IOC president Jacques Rogge and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah sent a joint letter to IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra and secretary-general Randhir Singh on November 23, warning of serious repercussions if the Olympic Charter was violated in any manner in the IOA elections.

The IOA was forced to include the Sports Code in the election process, following an order by the Delhi High Court on September 13, which said: “The elections of the Executive Committee of the IOA shall be held after compliance of the provisions of the constitution/memorandum/byelaws of the IOA, as well as the Sports Code of the Government of India. (The Sports Code bars those above 70 or those who have completed two consecutive terms in a particular post from contesting).”

The Hindu adds:

There was talk of taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), especially in view of the lack of hearing afforded to the IOA before the suspension was slapped on it. IOA sources also pointed that the elections were yet to take place though the process had been going on since November 5.

The contentious issue had been the tenure guidelines of the Union Government that the IOA has not accepted, but has been ordered to follow by the Delhi High Court in the elections. The IOC has objected to the IOA enforcing regulations that are not part of its constitution and are against the Olympic Charter.

Union Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said it was an “unfortunate” development. He pointed out that his ministry had written to the IOC but had not received a reply so far.

ET reported that factional feuding in the Indian sports body still takes precedence over the crisis:

Elections to the faction-ridden IOA are due to be held on Wednesday 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, blamed his rival Randhir for the suspension.

“When he realised he did not have the majority to win the elections, Randhir used his contacts in the IOC to get at us,” he said. “He is the one who has shamed Indian sport and should resign from the IOC.”

If the reported reasons for the suspension of the IOA are correct, then Mr. Chautala’s explanations do not hold water. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Suresh Kalmadi and Mr. Lalit Bhanot have landed India in poo yet again. Their shenanigans during the Commonwealth Games has led to two bodies taking two kinds of action. The IOC has banned the duo. The Indian government has let both individuals off the hook, but tweaked rules to give more power to the very same government which is behind the mess.

In India we have been forced to regard as normal the repeated spectacle of the guilty remaining unpunished while rules are changed. It is unfortunate that it requires an outside agency to tell us that this is just not done. Unfortunately Indian sports may take a long time to recover.

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