The mess in Indian sports has finally taken its toll, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banning the Indian arm, and the International Boxing Association provisionally suspending theIndian Boxing Federation. Sports minister Bhanwar Jitendra Singh tells Subodh Ghildiyal that vested interests in sports bodies are to blame.

Who is responsible for this ban by IOA?

If the Indian Olympic Association had incorporated the Sports Code (“charter for good practices” in its constitution), which is the same asIOC charter, this de-recognition would not have happened. If good sense had prevailed, the ban would not have happened.

Then why did IOA not take that simple action?

This is best answered by IOA. But there must be some vested interest of somebody involved; that is why it did not happen. We had tried our best; we knew this might happen when the warning came from the IOC.

The government had written to IOC on September 21, requesting that we should talk. The concerns of IOC and the government are the same – fix norms, bring in transparency, good practices for elections along with fixed tenure etc. I met the office-bearers of IOA and requested them to amend their constitution and bring in the Sports Code and the IOC charter. If they had, it would not have come to this pass. But the government only has an advisory role.

What are the vested interests? What is the way forward?

I feel there must be some vested interest (laughs) but it would be best you ask them what they are…. The intent of IOA should be to look at the interests of sportspersons, young persons, the image of the country, than any other interest they might have.

The irony is that IOC takes exception to IOA allowing government interference, while you say IOC and the government on the same page on reforms.

There is no interference. See the three points in the IOC letter to suspend IOA. We have written to IOC that there is no government interference. Even if IOA accepts the IOC charter, it is the same as the Sports Code.

Something as basic as sports administration is in a mess in India. What does it say about the country?

It is sad that a lot of people who are not adding value to sports are at the helm. A question that’s asked many times is whether politicians should be there or not.I have nothing against politicians. But they should be bringing value to sports and not sports bringing value to their interests.

Sports administration has become a career for politicians but the government cannot interfere. Can there be a voluntary reform movement in sports bodies?

Of course, it is possible. We have done well in sports and at the Olympics. So there is a lot of pressure on everybody to reform, bring transparency, put systems and processes in place where ethics are brought into associations. The government tried in the past to bring in the Sports Bill, but for that there have to be consultations. I will be definitely trying my best and speak to all my cabinet colleagues.

What is at the root of the round-the-year mess in sports administration?

It is because of the vested interest of a few that Indian sports is getting a bad name. I appeal to sportspersons who are doing well in sports and who have done well in sports, to take over reins of sports administration. We need sportspersons to come into some of these associations and clean up the system. But not all associations are bad. Some are doing an extremely good job.

It is felt the ban on IOA cannot be permanent because India is too big a democracy to be left out for ever. This assumption can lead the existing guard to not feel the pressure to change.

I don’t think so. IOC has banned IOA. There is nothing like it is temporary. If IOC wants they can ban IOA for a long, long time. It is our good luck there is no international sporting event till 2013, else we could have been in bigger trouble. I don’t see the ban lifting unless corrective actions are taken.

Despite the ban, the IOA elections were held and tainted individuals like Lalit Bhanot are back.

Since some matters are already in court, my comment would not be appropriate. But, of course, I would have loved to see more sportspersons in these associations rather than other individuals.

CWG irregularities led to inquiries, action. How did it affect the country’s image?

CWG had positive and negative sides. It is sad that everyone looks at the negatives of CWG. Look at the infrastructure, the capacity created by holding CWG, the exposure sportspersons got. Of course, the negatives were there and the government has taken the strictest and strongest action that it could. So I would urge all to look at the positives of the CWG.


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