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Will India be able to compete in international sports?

Anjana Krishnan
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Closing doorsLalit Bhanot (right), the secretary general of the suspended IOA.photo: AP
Closing doorsLalit Bhanot (right), the secretary general of the suspended IOA.photo: AP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), an international non-governmental body which organises all Olympic events, on December 4 suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for not following the Olympic charter to conduct elections for different posts in the IOA.

It said that the IOA was following the Delhi High Court order. The Olympic charter is a set of rules and regulations specified by the IOC for the Olympic movement and its members such as the IOA.

What was the High Court order?

In September 2012, the Delhi High Court ordered the IOA to conduct elections based on the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011. The court’s order was in response to a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) petition filed some time back. The PIL wanted to investigate the tenure of officials in the sporting bodies in the country which must represent the true interests of sport lovers.

What were the guidelines?

The president of the IOA could hold his post for a maximum of three terms (12 years where each term is a 4-year period. So, a person could hold the post for a maximum of 12 years and may or may not take breaks between them.

The secretary general of the IOA could hold the post for two successive four-year terms. Following their tenure, they will have to wait for another 4 years before applying again.

A person of 70 years or above is not eligible — be it the President, Secretary General or the Treasurer.

What are its implications?

Persons who had already held any of these posts for more than 12 years could not compete in the elections.

Therefore, a person like Suresh Kalmadi, who headed the IOA for nearly 19 years and was charged with corruption while organising the Commonwealth Games in 2010, will not be able to compete for the post again.

The IOC warned that it would suspend IOA if it failed to follow the Charter and said that elections conducted without its approval would not be recognised by it.

IOA’s defence:

The IOA defended itself saying guidelines in the sports code is built in accordance with the regulations in the Olympic Charter. It further said that even the IOC had time limits on the tenure of its members. In the first week of December the IOC suspended the IOA. But, the IOA went ahead with its elections on December 5.

What could the suspension mean?

It means that the IOA cannot participate in any sporting event organised and presided over by the IOC. Indian athletes cannot represent the nation in these events and can only participate as Independent Olympic Athletes under the Olympic flag. Also, funds allocated by the IOC to the IOA for the development and promotion of sports in the nation will be stopped. Obtaining sponsors for Indian athletes would also become more difficult.

Has any other country been suspended by the IOC before?

Kuwait was suspended by the IOC in 2010 when it was found that its sports law gave the government power to interfere with elections in its sports organisations.

After amendments to the law, the ban was lifted and Kuwait was allowed to participate in the London Olympics. Ghana, too, was similarly suspended in 2011 and later allowed to participate in London 2012.

Is this the end?

Discussions between officials of the IOC, IOA and the Indian government may help resolve the issue.

While the steps and guidelines adopted by IOA must be explained to the IOC, it must also be assured by the IOA and the Indian government that they will not challenge the autonomy of the Olympic Charter.

Muddle in the middle

In the ensuing confusion, the top three posts of the IOA — President, Secretary General and Treasurer — were selected without any opposition. President Abhay Singh Chautala and Secretary General Lalit Bhanot were elected to their posts as they had no one to compete against.

Lalit Bhanot’s election particularly generated controversy as he was alleged to have been involved in the Commonwealth Games 2010 scam.

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