Sports Minister, IOA trade heated blows

New Delhi: The simmering row between the government and sports federation bosses over tenure
limitations today intensified with the IOA saying the Sports
Ministry`s attempt to erode their autonomy could lead to
sanctions against the country.

Armed with letters of support from the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA),
the IOA went on the offensive and said sports bodies could not
be subjected to interference and external pressure as per the
Olympic Charter.

"Any restriction in the tenure of the office bearers and
fixing age limit may amount to interference to the internal
functioning of the National Olympic Committees. This may lead
to violation of Olympic Charter and IOC Executive Board may
hand sanctions, suspension or withdrawal of recognition of
such NOCs," IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh told a press
conference here.

"The issue of limiting tenure and fixing age limit of
of office bearers of the NOCs shall not be decided or imposed
by law of any government or external pressure but should be
decided by the NOCs themselves. These should be the
prerogative of the NOCs and decided by their executive
committees or general assemblies," Randhir said, quoting a
letter from the IOC.

The letter said that there was a need to have a good
relationship between the NOCs and respective governments but
that would not mean that the latter can interfere in the
internal working of the sports bodies.

"There should be harmonious relationship between NOCs and
their respective governments. But the autonomy of the NOCs is
enshrined in the Olympic Charter and it is the balance between
this autonomy and good relation with the governments that is
important for the development of sport.

NOCs no doubt work under the government but they are also
subject to Olympic Charter and the constitution of the
international federations. The respective governments must
understand that the NOCs can in no way be subject to
interference or external pressure in the internal functioning
of these organizations (NOCs)," the letter said.

Randhir also said that OCA chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad
was of the view that Sports Ministry order violates Olympic
Charter and OCA Constitution.

"I am extremely concerned by the media reports of the
Indian Sports Minister`s May 1, 2010 order which clearly
violates the Olympic Charter and the Constitution of the OCA.
All NOCs must preserve autonomy. There should be no
interference on the autonomy of the NOCs," Randhir said,
quoting a letter from the OCA chief.

"Governments cannot impose the number of terms of NOC
office bearers and their age limits. These are the
prerogatives of the NOCs concerned," said Randhir, who is also
the Secretary General of OCA.

The new regulations issued by the Sports Minister on
Sunday bar NSF presidents, which includes long-standing IOA
chief Suresh Kalmadi, cannot occupy the post for more than 12
years, with or without break, while secretaries and treasurers
can serve eight years at a stretch and can seek a re-election
only after a four-year gap.

Apart from Kalmadi, the regulation seeks to end the more
than a decade-old reign of VK Malhotra (archery), Sukhdev
Singh Dhindsa (cycling), VK Verma (badminton), Captain Satish
K Sharma (aero club) and B S Adityan (volleyball).

Gill, on his part, said the new regulation has the
backing of all political parties and is in fact a softer
version of the original 1975 guideline.

"On April 22, there was a full debate on my ministry
in the Rajya Sabha and all parties, barring none, urged me to
have the regulation to limit terms (of the sports
administrators), this being the demand of the sports people
and the public for long," Gill said.

"I studied the issue with my officers and gave a
considered order which should be read and re-read for total
understanding," he said.