Former India trap coach Russell Mark and his wife Lauryn, who used to be the shotgun team’s high-performance manager, may have moved on to Qatar but the incidents involving the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) have left a sour taste in their mouths.
To add to troubles, they are yet to recover their arrears, which, according to Russell, is a “considerable” amount of money.
All enquiries regarding the due payments have been falling on deaf ears. Finally, on July 1, NRAI governing body member Gusti J. Noria intervened and promised action within 10 days when Russell threatened to move court.
On Monday, the two-time Olympic medallist was eventually forced to knock on the doors of the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
SAI’s director-general, Sandip Pradhan, got on a call with NRAI secretary-general K. Sultan Singh, secretary Rajiv Bhatia, Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) CEO Pushpendra Kumar Garg and Russell.
“SAI were very good to step in and tell NRAI what to do, but what I don’t understand is why nobody holds NRAI accountable for letting everyone’s contract expire. It’s kindergarten stuff. It’s common sense to have a new contract ready on April 1,” Russell told Sportstar from Lonato.
The duo has now been asked by SAI to sign a fresh contract backdated from April 1-May 31 to settle the balance.
“SAI is saying, ‘We are sorry that the NRAI were incompetent and lazy and let your contract expire. So now in order to pay you, we will have to make a new 2-month contract’. It is a s**t show,” Russell said.
On being asked whether he plans on signing the said contract, Russell said, “We have no choice. SAI, at least, communicates. NRAI are the most unprofessional sporting body I have ever dealt with. It’s like they are more concerned about what the SAI thinks about them instead of just doing their job, which is trying to win medals.”
Interestingly, the NRAI had flown ‘out of contract’ Russell and Lauryn to Cairo and Almaty World Cups between April and May.
“Why would the NRAI send employees to events after March 31st uncontracted, knowing they can’t pay them, but then wait two months to even talk about another contract? Surely, that’s unethical and incompetent?” Russell questioned.
The Marks had tendered their resignation in May after citing a delay in the renewal of the original contract, which had ended on March 31, amid growing displeasure with NRAI-appointed high-performance director, Dr Pierre Beauchamp.
Things had come to a head when Lauryn was apparently asked to justify her role on the side.
NRAI president Kalikesh Singh Deo said there was never a question of non-payment of dues.
“These guys had sent invoices without extending the contract. But you need to sign a contract for the period you are claiming money for so that the audits can pass it.
Being a public body, you need a contractual mechanism to disburse funds. There was no issue about not giving any money to them that was due... The fact that they have left India now to join Qatar says a lot,” Kalikesh remarked.
On being asked the reason for the delay in the issuing of fresh contracts, Kalikesh remarked: “It was sent to SAI for acceptance. SAI had to send their approval on the basis of their timeline. We cannot send fresh contracts without their acceptance.”
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