The IOC-IOA duel

The IOA Acting President V.K. Malhotra has personally favoured the IOC’s stand.-R.V. MOORTHY

The ball lies in the IOA’s court and its members have to decide whether they want to resolve the impasse or bring further embarrassment for the country, writes Y. B. Sarangi.

Finally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has put its foot down and shown its will to clean up the mess in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), which has been synonymous with dirty politics, questionable elections and corruption over the years.

Since suspending the IOA in December 2012 for holding elections in violation of its own constitution as well as the Olympic Charter, the IOC has been tightening the screw on the National Olympic Committee (NOC). As a result, it has made the IOA insert some important amendments, such as adopting an Ethics Code and establishment of an Ethics Commission besides the formulation of clear election regulations and appointment of an election commission, into its constitution.

However, quite cunningly, the IOA had been evading a clause which suggested that persons facing criminal and corruption charges should not contest elections. Since it would have hampered the prospects of several heavyweights, against whom court cases had been pending on charges of corruption, a majority of the IOA raised objection against this clause on the ground that politicians facing similar charges were allowed by the law of the land to fight polls.

They claimed that the IOC had been demanding that charge-sheeted persons be kept out of the election process. Thus, the IOA in its General Assembly meeting on August 25, decided that only individuals convicted to two years of imprisonment or more should be kept out of the elections.

Cases of those who had been handed a sub-two year sentence should be referred to the Ethics Commission.

The IOC Executive Board, which met in Buenos Aires on September 4, rejected the IOA’s stand. The apex body nailed IOA’s lies and said that it was aware of “the difference between charge-sheeted and charge-framed persons” in the Indian legal system. The IOC said it had never said that the clause “applies to charge-sheeted persons.”

The IOC said it “fully respected the principle that ‘until proven guilty one is innocent.’” Laying stress on good governance, ethics and integrity, the IOC made it mandatory for the IOA to incorporate the initial wordings (suggested by the international body) related to charge-framed and convicted persons (making them ineligible for IOA polls) in its constitution.

“This is a prerequisite for the IOC to approve the revised constitution of the IOA. For that purpose, the suspended IOA should meet again in a General Assembly no later than October 31 and proceed with the required amendments.

“Once this step is completed and the IOC can approve the new constitution of the IOA, the suspended IOA would be in a position to hold its Elective General Meeting as soon as possible and no later than December 15.”

The IOC also said that the age and tenure restrictions (or at least the age limit) should be applicable not only to the President, Secretary-General and Treasurer but for all members of the Executive Council (for consistency reasons).

The parent body made it clear that the IOA must fulfill all these requirements before the IOC lifted the suspension on the Indian NOC. Till such time, as the IOA members wrack their brains over the issue, India, depending on any concession granted by the IOC, may be able to participate in certain events without its National flag and anthem.

While the IOA Acting President V. K. Malhotra has personally favoured the IOC’s stand, several others, who have been framed on corruption charges, have shown their dissatisfaction.

The Union Sports Ministry, which, understandably, has been playing a role behind the scene, has been siding with the IOC in its effort to cleanse the system. The Sports Minister Jitendra Singh has advocated an “alternate arrangement” and has appealed to the IOC to take care of the “interest of the Indian sportspersons.”

“One of the major issues is ethics and good governance. So, I hope better sense prevails and the IOA incorporates some changes which the IOC has been suggesting,” said the Minister.

The next move of the IOA members, who are expected to close ranks over the issue, will be crucial. Even though a faction of the IOA may be hopeful of striking a bargain after the change of guard at the IOC helm, the fact that the IOC letter has the full backing of all the NOCs as well as the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is going to make things difficult for them.

With important events like the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games scheduled next year, it is highly desirable that normalcy returns to Indian sports as soon as possible. The ball lies in the IOA’s court and its members have to decide whether they want to resolve the impasse or bring further embarrassment for the country.