AFI chief advocates ‘strictest action’ to deter sexual harassment

Adille Sumariwalla has called for exemplary punishment against coaches who allegedly sought sexual favours from junior athletes at the regional centres of Sports Authority of India.

Adille Sumariwalla...“If it is proved to be a sexual harassment case, it needs strictest punishment.”   -  Getty Images

Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla has called for exemplary punishment against coaches who allegedly sought sexual favours from junior athletes at the regional centres of Sports Authority of India (SAI).

SAI sacked one coach from its Tamil Nadu centre after about 15 junior athletes lodged a complaint at the SAI headquarters, alleging sexual harassment. There were similar complaints from Bangalore and Gujarat centres and SAI has ordered the compulsory retirement of one of its accountants who allegedly sent lewd text messages to a woman coach at the academy.

In the harassment case related to Gujarat, SAI has launched an internal probe against the coach. “Nothing is shocking anymore. It is a world-wide scenario, people in the U.S. have been jailed and same should happen here,” Sumariwalla told PTI on the sidelines of the IAAF run 24:1 here.

‘Strictest action should be taken’

“I am glad the DG has taken very strong steps and I think we need to go into the details of it and if it is proved to be a sexual harassment case, it needs strictest punishment. Strictest of charges under the Indian Penal Code should be levied on the coach because a coach is a father, a mentor and a guru, so strictest and strictest action should be taken.”

Sumariwalla was here to flag off the IAAF run 24:1, which saw around 200 people turn out for the one-mile run, which is part of a series of run that was organised around the world to celebrate Global Running Day. “This is part of a world movement and we are very proud that India is one of the few countries selected for the run. The turnout was fine but we have to figure out how to get large turnout. The time was short this time and weather was harsh. I hope it becomes an annual event and more people can participate in the run,” he said.

‘Performance matters most’

Sumariwalla was confident that India will return with more medals from the Asian Games, but insisted that medals should not be a criteria for judging the progress of an athlete. “I don’t think we should be talking about medals, we should be talking about performances, how much we have improved from last time in each event. But let me tell you we will win more medals this time. Medal means nothing for me, performance which matters most.”