Any more attempts by the IOA to stall reforms will delay India’s re-entry into the Olympic mainstream, writes K.P. Mohan

“We can’t go beyond the law of the land,” says Abhay Singh Chautala who was elected ‘president’ of the suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA) last December. This has been repeated by other officials of the IOA ever since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rejected certain proposals of the Indian body in its bid to get back to the Olympic fold.

The IOC is unconvinced. It has stuck to its stand that charge-sheeted officials should have no place in the IOA till they get their names cleared through due legal process. It was not agreeable last month to the “law of the land” provision determining all matters related to the IOA in the first place.

But does the law of the land prevent the IOA from inserting a clause in its constitution barring an official who has been charge-sheeted by a court of law?

It does not stop a charge-sheeted individual from contesting Parliamentary elections, argue IOA officials, basing their argument on the People’s Representation Act.

If a comparison is to be drawn with Parliamentary elections or a law that could be silent on enforcing such a restriction as the one being suggested by the IOC — endorsed also by the Union Sports Ministry — then the question should come up about the rest of the provisions that the IOA has accepted in its recent constitution amendments.

The tenure and age guidelines were also supposed to be against the “law of the land,” going by the IOA’s argument because it said there was no law defining these points.

The Delhi High Court ruled in favour of the government guidelines — now part of the National Sports Code and the draft National Sports Development Bill — being enforced in the elections to the National Sports Federations including that of the IOA.

That ruling eventually forced the latter to hold the elections last December under the code, against the wishes of the IOC, thereby attracting IOC sanctions.

The IOA has now agreed and amended the age and tenure clauses while all the major NSFs have also agreed to bring in the changes. In fact a majority of the NSFs had agreed to follow the guidelines (Sports Code) even before the IOA suspension and they had also concurred, without reservations to follow them prior to the meeting the IOC had convened in Lausanne last May to break the deadlock.

Why should then there be a fuss over this “charge-sheet clause” that bars only those against whom charges have been framed by a court of law?

The IOA officials are said to be worried about people being framed on frivolous charges by political adversaries. Or at least that is the argument that is being made out. On the other hand, the IOC has made it clear that the “current circumstances” have forced it to adopt a stand to protect the “reputation of the Olympic Movement.”

Any more attempts by the IOA to stall the process of reforms that the IOC has been trying to bring in since 2011 will only lead to further delay in the IOA getting back into the Olympic mainstream, thus causing further embarrassment for the country.

There has also been quite a number of misleading interpretations of the implications of the IOC sanction against the IOA in recent days.

The suspension, imposed last December, simply means India cannot compete in the Olympic Games and any other event directly or indirectly controlled by the IOC.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) under which the recent Asian Youth Games were held recently, approves only National Olympic Committees (NOCs) recognized by the IOC.

The IOC has so far not made an exception to enable a team from India participate in the Olympics under the Olympic flag.

Such an arrangement is not an automatic ‘privilege’ being granted to a suspended NOC but one which will have to be specified by the IOC Executive Board.

For the rest, except for boxing and taekwondo, at least for the time being, there is no bar on participation of Indian teams or the display of flags etc.

The crunch might come if the IOA decides to drag on the issue without making efforts to move towards fresh elections in December.

An exclusion from the Olympic Movement that encompasses the Olympics and all Olympic sports federations could mean a ban from all international competitions in all Olympic sports.

That would be disastrous for the country.

K.P. Mohan is a former athletics correspondent of The Hindu

More In: Other Sports | Sport