India’s moment of glory — with a record six medals in the London Olympics in July-August 2012 — turned out to be short-lived, as the International Olympic Committee suspended India on Tuesday to stop tainted officials from coming back to the top of the Indian Olympic Association.
The decision came on the eve of the Indian body formalising a messy election process that would see Lalit Bhanot, secretary-general of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee who was jailed on corruption charges, making a grand come-back.
Bhanot is set to be elected unopposed with the main contenders from the rival camp, headed by incumbent secretary general Randhir Singh, withdrawing from the elections.
The suspension means the IOC will no longer fund India and its officials will not be able to attend its meetings. Indian athletes will not be eligible for IOC scholarships and cannot take part in international meets under the Indian tri-colour. But they can participate under the IOC flag.
The IOC executive board to meet in Lausanne, had warned that the elections were not in keeping with the Olympic charter and the report of its ethics panel that barred tainted officials from holding senior positions.
Sports minister Jitendra Singh, however, said, "We're willing to take the first step to resolve the issue. It's not the time for a blame game. The sports ministry is open to sitting together with representatives from government, the IOC and the IOA."
The build-up to the elections itself had projected the mess that India's sports administration has become with accusations flying thick and fast between two groups.
The Delhi high court had directed that the IOA should follow the sports code of the government that barred officials above 70 years of age from contesting. It also barred anyone from seeking a fourth term.
IOA officials, who have maintained that following the sports code would lead to sanctions from the global governing body, now blame each other. Abhey Singh Chautala, set to be elected unopposed as IOA president, blamed Randhir Singh, India's representative in IOC.
Chautala said, "From the start, Randhir is responsible for the entire mess. To save his chair he can do anything. He should resign as IOC member. In tomorrow's AGM, we will pass a resolution to withdraw Randhir from the IOC as he is no longer a member of the IOA executive board."
Randhir, on the other hand, said the IOA needs cleansing. "The mess that is happening today in the IOA needs to be cleaned up. What we are heading for now with this suspension is that it gives an opportunity to clean up the mess. Let me tell you that the IOC is not anti-India. It is against the system," he added.