United World Wrestling (UWW) will not interfere in the pending case relating to the alleged sexual harassment of Indian women grapplers by former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh but will “listen to the voices of athletes” if they approach the world body again, its chief Nenad Lalovic said on Monday.
Seven Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik and Asian Games gold winner Vinesh Phogat, had alleged that Singh had sexually harassed female grapplers.
The Delhi police had filed a charge sheet against Singh on June 15. After prolonged protests, led by Vinesh, Bajrang and Sakshi, the Delhi Police filed a chargesheet against the six-time MP under various sexual offence charges.
The UWW also suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for not conducting elections in the given time frame.
“We followed all that happened during the wrestlers’ protest and so on. We have concerns about the well-being of our athletes. This is another possibility to have a suspension,” said Lalovic, who was here to attend the 141st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“Now this case is followed by the Indian authorities, and we will not interfere in that except if athletes approach us again for some reason. We listen to the voices of the athletes no matter where they come from,” he added.
He said the suspension of the WFI would be lifted as soon as the elections are held. “We will be the happiest to lift the suspension as soon as elections are held, and we know who our interlocutors are. Besides this, it’s a huge administration work behind all the activity of the federation. At this moment, the administration work is done partially by the ad hoc committee but very much by UWW,” he said.
“Let’s hope the situation does not remain confused. There must be a hearing of the Supreme Court on the 3rd of November and after that, I believe the elections will be organized in a month or so in order to have normal governance of the federation.
“I think everything that’s been done recently is in the right direction and that will soon solve the problems of Indian wrestling,” he added.
Lalovic made it clear that the WFI was suspended because there was no governance. “The Ministry was obliged to impose a committee and then the ad hoc committee ruled by the IOA,” he said.
“Wrestling activities, very specifically, are difficult to rule from the outside. So, the people involved in wrestling should find a solution themselves in order to assist their athletes.” Lalovic said that the Indian athletes will continue to compete in international events no matter what happens on the front of WFI governance.
“India is a huge country with a huge number of athletes, but that complicates additionally the selection and preparation of athletes. For that, a strong national federation is needed, otherwise, the athletes suffer,” he said.
“By suspending the federation, we did not suspend the athletes. And you know that they are competing and will continue to compete no matter what happens,” said the Serbian businessman who is also an IOC member.
He rued his complicated position wherein he is attending the IOC Session in a country whose wrestling federation, a unit of UWW, is currently suspended.
“The WFI is not directly linked to the IOC, it’s linked through the UWW. The IOC is absolutely backing up our position and our act when it is about the actual suspension of WFI,” he said.
“You have to understand that it is very uncomfortable for me to visit India for the IOC session and my own Federation is suspended. I don’t feel very comfortable, I would like the situation to be different.”
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