India facing Olympic suspension after tainted official moves from jail to top role

Saturday, 01 December 2012
By Duncan Mackay

Lalit Bhanot  surrounded by guardsDecember 1 - Suspension for the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has moved a significant step closer after it was confirmed that Lalit Bhanot will be unopposed as secretary general at the organisation's election on Wednesday (December 5) following the withdrawal of his rivals.

Bhanot spent 11 months in custody last year following corruption charges linked to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Abhay Singh Chautala, the chairman of the Indian Amateur Boxing Association, is also set to be elected unopposed for the IOA President's post after his main rival, International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Randhir Singh, pulled out claiming that he had been the victim of a "slanderous campaign" against him.

The IOC had already threatened the IOA with suspension because of alleged Government interference in the election and are now set to impose the ban when its ruling Executive Board meets in Lausanne next Tuesday and Wednesday (December 4-5).

The IOA claim they have been directed by a New Delhi court to hold the elections under a controversial Government sports code, while the IOC wants it to go by its own constitution and the Olympic charter.

But Chautala and other IOA officials claim they are optimistic of avoiding the IOC suspension following a meeting with Indian's Sports Minister Jitendra Singh.

"We appraised the Minister all matters concerning elections and he gave us a patient hearing," said Chautala.

"We also requested him to find a solution to the raging debate over IOC's periodical letters [warning the IOA].

"He assured us that after discussing the matter he will revert to us."

Chautala has defended Bhanot's selection saying he has not been found guilty of anything yet.

"Until the court decides he is guilty, there is no restriction on him fighting elections," he said.

Both Chautala and Bhanot are close allies of Suresh Kalmadi, who is being forced to step down as President of the IOA having himself served in 10 months in prision on suspicion of corruption linked to the Commonwealth Games.

Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the acting President of the IOA, has also tried to reassure the IOC by writing to President Jacques Rogge claiming that the elections are being held under its constitution and that there has been no Government interference.

Vijay Kumar Malhotra with Randhir Singh London 2012Vijay Kumar Malhotra (right), pictured at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012 with India's IOC member Randhir Singh, is hoping that he can persuade the IOC not suspend the IOA

"Our constitution does not adhere to Government guidelines in election of Executive Committee and office bearers," he wrote to Rogge.

"[The] IOA appointed a three-member Election Commission consisting of two retired Chief Justices of High Court and one retired High Court judge to conduct free and fair elections.

"The Election Commission has informed me that none of the nominations have been rejected on account of Government guidelines.

"All the nominations have been filed strictly and scrutinised in accordance with the Constitution of Indian Olympic Association.

"Kindly be assured that the autonomy of the IOA shall be preserved and protected and no interference of any economic, political angle shall be permitted.

"The IOA firmly gives commitment to you that the elections are being held and will be held preserving the Olympic Charter."

Malhotra has also written to Sheikh Al Sabah, the President of Olympic Council of Asia and the Association of National Olympic Committees, to reassure him of the same.

"The IOA at all times has been against the Government's Sports Code/Guidelines," Malhotra wrote.

"In this connection, a meeting was held in the office of the IOC in 2010 which was attended by Government of India officials and IOA.

"During the meeting it was vehemently argued and contested that the Government guidelines are contrary to IOA Constitution on the principle of IOA autonomy and was violation of Olympic Charter as well as legally untenable.

"In the presence of IOC officials the Government conceded that they would withdraw the guidelines and would not like to enforce [them] to the IOA."

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz


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