India suspended from Olympics by IOC over election row

Tuesday, 04 December 2012
By Duncan Mackay at the Palace Hotel in Lausanne

Indian Olympic Association logoDecember 4 - The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) were today suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of the row over its elections.

The IOC's ruling Executive Board, which is meeting here today, suspended the IOA for not holding the elections under the Olympic Charter in its election process.

The IOA had been directed by the High Court in New Delhi to hold the elections tomorrow according to the Government's controversial Sports Code, while the IOC wanted it to abide by the Olympic Charter that favours autonomy.

That led to IOC member Randhir Singh and his supporters withdrawing from the contest last month.

It leaves tainted official Lalit Bhanot elected unopposed as the IOA's secretary general, while Abhey Singh Chautala, the chairman of the Indian Boxing Federation, is set to take over as President.

Lalit Bhanot head and shouldersLalit Bhanot's unopposed election as secretary general of the IOA has helped trigger a decision by the IOC to suspend India

Bhanot is out on bail after being held in custody for 11 months last year over corruption charges during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi when he was secretary general of the Organising Committee.

But if the elections go ahead tomorrow then they will be "null and void", the IOC warned.

"They are not entitled to have elections and if for some reason they go ahead this will not be recognised," said the IOC's Pere Miro, in charge of relations with National Olympic Committees.

"This is because this is part of a full problem.

"The election process has been tarnished since the origin.

"Many different interferences, many governmental rules and their own bad interpretation of IOA statutes,"

The decision to suspend the Olympic governing body of the second most populous country on earth had been widely expected.

The IOC Ethics Commission had in October warned the IOA against fielding either Bhanot or Suresh Kalmadi, who has been IOA President since 1996, but who is also on bail over corruption charges.

The decision means that the IOA will not receive IOC funding and its officials will be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events.

If the situation is not sorted out then India's athletes will also be barred from competing in the Olympics under the national flag, although, with the Winter Games in Sochi 2014 still more than a year away, there is plenty of time to find a solution.

The IOA had sent representatives here to try to persuade the IOC not to suspend them.

"It's the wrong decision as the IOC has not even met our representatives," said Chautala.

India had made its debut at the Olympics in Paris in 1900, although there is confusion over whether its only competitor, Norman Pritchard, who won silver medals in the 200 metres and 200m hurdles was actually competing for Britain.

The IOA was formed in 1927 and competed for the first time at the following year's Olympics in Amseterdam, when its hockey team won the gold medal, beginning a streak that continued through to the 1956 Games in Melbourne.

Abhinav Bindra, the only Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal, had criticised the IOA for allowing Bhanot to be in a position where he could be elected unopposed.

Abhinav Bindra London 2012Abhinav Bindra, India's only ever individual gold medallist, has claimed that the decision to elect Lalit Bhanot made his "blood boil"

"It's about politics and stooping to a new low," said Bindra, who won the men's 10 metre rifle event at Beijing in 2008.

"It is agonising to see such people coming back."

Bindra later tweeted: "Bye Bye IOA, hope to see u again soon, hopefully cleaner!"

The IOC's tough stance is backed by Clean Sports India (CSI), who are campaigning for a corruption-free sports administration.

Morad Ali, their spokesman, has described suspension as "surgery for the Indian sporting system".

But some of India's top athletes expressed their concern about the repercussions for their careers.

"I do not know much about this [suspension]," said boxer Mary Kom, who won a bronze medal in the flyweight category at Londo.

"I don't have a good feeling about this.

"I will not be able to give my 100 per cent without the Indian flag,"

Even Bishen Bedi, one of India's greatest ever cricketers, felt the need to get involved.

"What is worse," he asked on his Twitter page. "IOA, IOC or IPL (Indian Premier League)?! "Please come forward with constructive response. Remember the sportspersons' involvement is strictly at stake. Thanks."

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