The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to take up a proposal for the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) at its Executive Board meeting in Lausanne on December 4 and 5.
While one section of the IOA, which swears by the Olympic Charter, is certain that suspension is inevitable and imminent, another section is convinced that the IOC would not rush through a suspension procedure, especially when it hears the argument from the Indian side.
That is if such an argument could be placed before it. Moves were afoot the past two days to get a two-member IOA delegation off to Lausanne.
The issue of autonomy, something that has been debated in India for over three decades, has got clouded this time since elections to the IOA have been scheduled.
The age-old tenure guidelines that are part of the Sports Code of the Government of India and are being followed in the election process as per the Delhi High Court directive are once again at the centre of the row. The code has been rejected by the IOA, though the majority of the National Sports Federations (NSFs) have agreed to abide by it.
The Union Sports Ministry is willing to talk, but its immediate advice to the IOA is to amend its constitution and fall in line.
Where does that leave the IOA? Is the IOC being adamant on the autonomy issue; when dozens of other nations might be having either similar rules as India’s (as had been pointed out by the ministry under the then Sports Minister M.S. Gill in May-June, 2010) or more blatant government interference?
To get a fair idea of what the IOC has been saying for years, we need to understand what the IOC letter (Nov 23), signed by its president Jacques Rogge, stated and what its implications are.
"Now, the IOA cannot, on the one hand, reject in principle the Government regulations and decide not to reflect them in the IOA’s constitution and, on the other hand, accept to be bound by those Government regulations and continue developing its election process on that basis.
"The IOA must be consistent with its own position by either (i) freely accepting the Government regulations (or some of them) and, in this case, reflecting them in the IOA’s constitution by decision of the IOA’s General Assembly (provided of course that they are compatible with the Olympic Charter), or (ii) not accepting the Government regulations (or some of them), not reflecting them in the IOA’s constitution and, in this case, not applying them.
Law of the land
"The IOA has therefore been unable to make the appropriate, responsible and consistent decision in due time and, as a result, is faced now with this situation." The IOA’s sole defence is based on the plea that law of the land has to be respected.
To buttress its argument further the IOA — or at least a section of it — points out the recommendation of the Olympic Congress held in Copenhagen in 2009: "In accordance with the principles and values of Olympism, the practice of sport must be run by independent, autonomous sport organisations, which are in full compliance with applicable laws."
Yet, the Charter also demands that the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) should resist "all pressures of any kind including but not limited to political, legal, religious or economic pressures which may prevent them from complying with the Olympic Charter."
In short, the IOC welcomes "reforms" provided nothing is forced through laws or by an external agency and, more importantly, the measures do not breach the Charter.
Suspension may mean that the Executive Board would be determining the consequences for "the NOC concerned and its athletes." Going by recent examples, the athletes are invariably allowed, but not under the National flag, to compete in multi-discipline games.
De-recognition can only be imposed by an IOC session which is the body of its members. Unless IOA elections take place on December 5, as scheduled, it may still be early to say which way the IOC decision will swing.