IOA bows under pressure after an eventful 2013

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - 10:38

New Delhi: A usually reticent Sports Ministry was at its persuasive best as it fought for India`s reinclusion in the Olympic fold even as the corruption-tainted IOA embarrassed itself by trying hard to defy the IOC for most part of the year before being forced to bow under pressure in an eventful 2013.

Having blatantly violated the International Olympic Committee`s diktats on more than one occasion throughout the year, the Indian Olympic Association was finally left with no option but to amend its constitution as per the world body`s directives following an ultimatum by it.

The decision to amend the IOA constitution in line with Olympic Charter was taken at its Special General Body Meeting on December 8, 2013, after the IOC served the ultimatum last month that it would de-recognise India if the "charge-framed" persons are not barred from contesting polls, among other directives.

De-recognition means that a country cannot be a part of the Olympic Movement, and the country`s sportspersons are not be allowed to take part in any international event.

It all started more than a year ago when just a day before the controversy-marred elections of the IOA on December 5, 2012, IOC had suspended the national body for adhering to the government`s Sports Code and declared the polls "null and void".

In an act of defiance, IOA went ahead with the polls, though the parent body had refused to recognise Abhay Singh Chautala, who was elected unopposed as president, and his team as office bearers.

Subsequently, IOC said it would continue to treat VK Malhotra as IOA acting president and Randhir Singh as secretary general.

The IOC asked its Indian member Randhir to take all measures, including legal action, against "illegitimate individuals" claiming to represent the suspended IOA.

But turning a blind eye to IOC`s directives, IOA called a meeting of its Executive Council on January 19, 2013, despite being barred from the Olympic family.

The Sports Ministry, meanwhile, issued a letter to all the National Sports Federations, asking them to amend their constitution in accordance with the Sports Code by January 31, failing which it said their recognition by the Government could be impacted.

In order to lift the ban on India, IOC, meanwhile proposed to hold a meeting with the IOA and government representatives but maintained that the Indian body must hold its elections solely under Olympic Charter.

The IOC made it clear that IOA dispensation under Chautala would have no role in the meeting, which would discuss a roadmap towards resolving the issues by way of holding elections under a revised constitution.

But the continuing stand-off between the government and sports administrators over a controversial Sports Code saw the proposed joint meeting with IOC being postponed twice in two months.

Finally after three postponements, the meeting took place on May 15 at Lausanne, Switzerland.

But the run-up to the meeting was also marred with controversies. In a dramatic development, VK Malhotra and Randhir Singh pulled out of the meeting as they were apparently miffed with the world body's changed stance to include Hockey India General Secretary Narinder Batra and Jharkhand Olympic Association RK Anand in the IOA delegation for the meeting, in addition to the original four-member list submitted earlier.

However, the meeting, which was also attended by Sports Minister Jitendra Singh, Beijing Olympics gold-medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra and Olympian sailor Malav Shroff, among others, produced desired results.

The IOC issued the roadmap for India's return to the Olympic fold, asking IOA to amend its constitution before July 15 and elect new office bearers by September 1, both under the eyes of the world body.

The entire process, however, got delayed as IOC asked for more time to send its comments on the new IOA Constitution.

On August 15, IOC dropped a bombshell by stating that a tainted person will no longer be eligible to contest IOA elections under the revised draft constitution.

The provision effectively meant that officials like Suresh Kalmadi, Lalit Bhanot and VK Verma who had been chargesheeted in connection with 2010 Commonwealth Games scam would not be able to contest the IOA elections.

This made IOA defiant and it refused to implement the provision, saying that it had to follow the law of the country.

The IOA even proposed to dilute the contentious clause, saying the chargesheet clause must apply only to convicted persons, which means only those who are held guilty by a court for a jail term of two or more years.

Miffed by IOA's suggestion, IOC and the Sports Ministry asked the Indian body to incorporate the required amendments in its constitution.

The IOC also shot down any compromise formula on the chargesheet clause, asking IOA to sack "charge-framed" officials through constitutional amendments by October 31 and conduct fresh elections by December 15.

The Sports Ministry, on its part, kept on putting pressure on IOA and it was almost a year after the suspension that the national body reluctantly agreed to make amendments.

However, India still have to wait until next year to get into the Olympic fold as the much-awaited elections are scheduled on February 9, 2014.

The Sports Minister, however, is trying to convince IOA to hold its polls before the scheduled date so that the Indian athletes can participate in Sochi Winter Olympics, starting February 7, under the national flag.

The IOC, meanwhile, is making sure that IOA does not leave any room for interpretations in its constitutional amendments and retain clarity regarding barring of "charge-framed" persons from contesting polls.

The amendments, if accepted by IOC, could bring an end to the existing impasse between the two bodies and to everyone's relief pave India's return to the Olympic fold before Commonwealth and Asian Games to be held next year.

PTI

First Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - 12:47

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