Editor’s note: This article was initially published after Suresh Kalmadi backed out from IOA’s life president role. In a later development, Abhay Chautala has reportedly backed down too. That, however, doesn’t change the opinion stated in this article.
When Vijay Goel makes sense, you know that the situation is really f*cked up.
The sports minister, famous for getting athletes’ names wrong while congratulating or wishing them luck, blasted the Indian Olympic Association for appointing Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as ‘Life Presidents.’
For the first time, the nation agreed with him, when he said the decision was “shocking” and “totally unacceptable” since the two men were facing serious criminal and corruption charges. Then he went ahead and issued a showcause notice to the IOA, telling them that the ministry will cut all ties with them unless Kalmadi and Chautala are removed from their honorary positions. Kalmadi has since backed off from the position.
But Goel is one of many disgruntled administrators and while his office is of great power, it is the athletes’ plight that is truly miserable.
Imagine an athlete — working relentlessly to reach the peak of their powers, fighting for support in the corridors of federations and associations — seeing a man, a convicted man nonetheless, being honoured as a life president in the association which controls the greatest sporting saga: the Olympics.
What sort of an example is the IOA setting – allowing corruption to permeate the upper echelons of sport while expecting their athletes to win laurels.
Kalmadi is a crook. He is a really bad person. A liar – who said that he had dementia while he was at Tihar jail – which medical tests didn’t prove. He is corrupt – he cheated the government as chairman of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010 by charging exorbitant rates for artificial turfs to toilet-paper rolls. This, from a man who was once IOA president and the president of the Asian Athletics Association.
So is Chautala – a man who was charge-sheeted by the CBI for allegedly possessing assets far more than his legal income. He was one of the main men who got the IOA suspended when he was heading the body – for not adhering to the Olympic Charter set by the IOC. He doesn’t understand the simple caveat that sports bodies need to be run according to the international committees regulating them. It put a legitimate threat on Indian athletes competing not as Indians, but as independent athletes. He held an entire nation to ransom so he could keep charge-sheeted officials in power. Add to that what he did with boxing: he had served as president of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation which was terminated from recognition in the world body AIBA in 2013 for possible manipulation in IABF elections.
Kalmadi has backed off from post because of pressure – his lawyer has said that until the charges are cleared, the position will be declined by his client and that Kalmadi had no idea this ‘honour’ was coming.
That the IOA didn’t bat an eyelid is simply too much to stomach. Their vice-president Tarlochan Singh said that the “IOA General Body does not need any clearance from anybody to appoint any person a life president or patron.”
Well, maybe it doesn’t. But it needs the trust of the nation. It needs to be free of corruption – the very sin the country’s Prime Minister has waged a crusade against.
But the IOA doesn’t care. The IOA only cares about sending officials (including Chautala) to the Olympics with a full access pass. The IOA is only concerned about hiring a radiologist as the Chief Medical Officer at the Games. The IOA is only concerned about decade-long plans to make India a great sporting nation.
They’re not just careless. The IOA, to put it softly, is shameless.
Feature image source: AFP