Even as the supporters of Abhey Singh Chautala celebrated the group's unanimous election to at least four key posts of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday, the entire process drew flak because Lalit Bhanot - who is facing serious charges of corruption in the Commonwealth Games - became
the secretary-general of the apex sports body.
"It's shameful," said former international sprinter, Ashwini Nachappa, of Bhanot getting elected to the key post. "We speak of a nation aspiring for sporting glory. We discuss the Olympic movement and how to take it forward. But, sadly, we aren't following it," said Nachappa on the disintegration of the Olympic movement because of a few tainted officials.
Nachappa, winner of silver in 4x100m relay at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, added that, "Our sports officials aren't sending the right message to the young generation. What values are we giving to the youngsters?
"Here are officials who haven't done much to develop athletics in the country. What should we expect from them when they take over the IOA?" Nachappa told HT over the phone from Bangalore.
She was also critical of the government for allowing tainted officials to contest the elections. "We players can only talk, but it's the government which can stop all this," said the Arjuna Awardee.
Bhanot refused to comment on the issue, but the IOA's newly-elected president, Chautala, said there was nothing wrong in Bhanot getting elected to the post. "The law hasn't convicted him yet, so why can't he become an office-bearer," he said.
He also denied that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ethics panel had direct the IOA to keep tainted officials, including Bhanot, away from the elections.
"The IOC hadn't sent any such communication to the IOA," he said.
"So many politician are facing (corruption) charges, but are still in the government. Why can't it be in sports," said Chautala.
Another former international runner, Sunita Godara, said, it would have been appropriate for the IOA to adhere to the Olympic movement and maintain a clean image. "This will send a wrong signal to potential sponsors, who want to support sports in the country," she opined.
"Despite being at the helm for so long, athletics didn't make any progress under Bhanot. The discipline also suffered and instances of doping increased," said Godara, adding that, Bhanot will continue running the athletics federation from outside.
Chautala's poll agenda that he would bring in sponsors - because of which he got overwhelming support - will certainly be tested once his team takes charge.
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