New Delhi: 2012 started with jubilation but ended with shame for the country's Olympic movement as barely months after India came up with it’s best-ever medal haul at the Olympic Games in London, the IOA was slapped with a suspension by the IOC for not adhering to the Olympic Charter during its elections.
The development, a result of the internal power struggle in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), has put the country in an embarrassing position.
But it is the athletes who had to bear the brunt most of the unfortunate situation as the suspension has put a question mark over their very participation in Olympic events under the tri-colour and can only participate under the IOC banner.
It also meant that the IOA will stop receiving International Olympic Committee (IOC) funding and its officials will be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events.
The IOC's decision to ban IOA in its executive board meeting in Lausanne earlier this month has exposed the dirty politics in the national Olympic body.

IOA failed to comply with Olympic Charter

The IOC said that it decided to ban India as the IOA had failed to comply with the Olympic Charter and also allowed a tainted official to contest the elections for a top post.
The decision was largely expected after the IOA decided to go ahead with its elections under the government's Sports Code, defying the IOC's diktat to hold the polls under the Olympic Charter.
The suspension triggered off a blame game not only within the IOA, but also between the government and the national Olympic body.

The blame-game
Holding India's nominated representative in IOC, Randhir Singh, who was in the race for IOA president's post but withdrew later, responsible for the entire mess, current IOA chief Chautala said, "He had misled the IOA, the IOC and the government. Being an IOC member from the country, he should have defended the IOA and pleaded our case before the IOC."
Former IOA acting president, V K Malhotra, however, blamed the government for imposing the Sports Code on them.
"The government is responsible for this. We want the government, the IOC and the IOA to sit together and resolve the issue so that India's suspension is lifted. We had no option but to hold the elections under the Sports Code because of the High Court order," Malhotra said.

The Sports Ministry’s role

But the Sports Ministry was quick to dismiss the allegations and instead put the blame on the IOA, saying that there was no conflict between the government's Sports Code and the Olympic Charter and the ban could have been avoided had the national Olympic body amended its constitution.
"The decision to suspend India was an unfortunate one. But it could have been avoided had the IOA amended its constitution. It is false to say that the Sports Code was the reason behind India's suspension. There is no conflict between the Sports Code and the Olympic Charter," Sports Minister Jitendra Singh had said after IOA's suspension.


The Ministry also clarified that the National Sports Development Code included such age and tenure guidelines for office-bearers of sports bodies as are enshrined in the Olympic Charter itself.
The IOA's position has always been that of opposing the Sports Code, but it says it was compelled to abide by the Delhi High Court order to hold the elections under the specified code.
The ban earned India the dubious distinction of being among a handful of countries, which have faced suspension from the IOC. But the IOA seemed unfazed by the embarrassing incident.

IOA elections despite ban

Disregarding the ban, a defiant IOA, just a day after it's suspension, showed utter disregard to the IOC's warning that the election would be treated "null and void", and went ahead with the polls in which Chautala was elected unopposed as president, while scam-tainted Lalit Bhanot was elected the secretary general, also unopposed.
The IOC, in its suspension letter to IOA, made it clear that the national Olympic body would remain suspended until it was in a position to satisfy all the conditions set out in the Olympic Charter.
Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said although he has no mandate or jurisdiction to interfere in the matter, he would still try to engage with the IOC to get the ban lifted. The top officials of the IOA, however, made it clear that they have no immediate plans to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) to challenge the suspension.
The year that witnessed India peak as a sporting nation, Jitendra Singh found himself on a shaky ground immediately after taking over the reins from Ajay Maken.
But nevertheless, he has managed to take some tough stands and send strong signals to all the National Sports Federations (NSFs) as well as to the IOA.

An ‘ad-hoc’ committee representing IOA

After the IOA's suspension, the government suggested to the IOC that an "ad-hoc" committee – comprising eminent sportspersons -- be formed to look after the affairs of the national Olympic body.
In fact, just three days after the ban, the government de-recognised the Archery Association of India (AAI) and Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) for not following the Sports Code.
While the former was derecognised for "violating the age and tenure guidelines" of the Sports Code during its elections last month, the latter's poll process was found to be "flawed and faulty".
The government also issued notice to the Athletic Federation of India (AFI), giving it two month's time to amend its constitution and hold re-elections for the post of president, secretary and treasurer.
The Ministry, however, denied that the government was on a spree to de-recognise the federations but warned that the NSFs must strictly follow the Sports Code to avoid suspension.
Undoubtedly, the IOA's suspension has touched a new low for Indian sports but many, including some sportspersons, feel the move is a blessing in disguise and might help in clearing the dirt in country's sporting federations.


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