The Sports Ministry is livid with the country’s top wrestlers for opting out of international events in the wake of their ongoing stand-off with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and its chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, Deepak Punia, Anshu Malik and Sangita Mor, have skipped UWW Ranking Series events in Zagreb and Alexandria as a probe panel is investigating the sexual abuse allegations against WFI chief, who has stepped aside pending enquiry.
The move has irked the government, which provides financial assistance to the wrestlers under Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) to support their preparation and training.
“We don’t get it why they are not competing when their demands have been met. We need to give time to the committee to complete its probe. It is wrestlers’ decision and we can’t force anyone but they should not have missed the events,” a ministry official said.
The sport is currently being run by a six-member Oversight Committee led by legendary boxer MC Mary Kom.
The committee is investigating the claims that Brij Bhushan has sexually harassed several women wrestlers, and also intimidates the athletes.
The ministry was forced to set up the panel after the wrestlers staged a sit-in protest at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, demanding that Brij Bhushan be removed from the top post and WFI be disbanded.
The ministry asked the committee, formed on January 23, to submit its report within four weeks and asked Brij Bhushan to step aside till the completion of the probe.
As per the earlier deadline, the committee was scheduled to submit its report on February 23 but the ministry has given a two-week extension after being asked for some more time.
Asked about the reason behind the two-week extension, the ministry official said: “The committee was announced by the minister on January 21 night and was formed on January 23. The committee members requested us to give them some more time as they could start their probe only after the joining of the new member.” Besides Marykom and Babita, the other members of the committee are former wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, former shuttler Trupti Murgunde, SAI member Radhica Sreeman and Rajesh Rajagopalan, ex-CEO of TOPS.