The coach of India's middle-distance athletics team, Nikolai Snesarev of Belarus, has been accused of making a racist slur at an athlete during the Commonwealth Games camp, underway in Coonoor.
In a letter dated May 19, Waheeda Rehman, who hails from Manipur, has written to Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Athletics Federation of India, alleging that Snesarev screamed "bloody black” at her. The Belarusian has denied the charge.
Describing the course of events, Waheeda wrote that after returning to her hotel in Coonoor, near Ooty, from the National Open Athletics Championship in Kochi, where she won bronze, Snesarev made the remark while she was speaking to her “ailing mother”. Waheeda claimed Snesarev snatched the phone and pushed her to the wall, which resulted in a shoulder injury.
When the athlete informed the coach of her intention to leave the camp, Snesarev repeated the racist remark and asked her to complain “even to the Prime Minister of India”.
While other athletes confirmed that Waheeda was pushed, they claimed they didn't hear anything as they were training.
When contacted Bhanot dismissed the matter. “We have made our investigations and it is a non-issue.” However, SAI has decided to send two senior officials to the camp to investigate the issue.
Snesarev denied the allegations and said Waheeda, who has since left the camp, was undisciplined. “I never touch a woman. The colour of the skin, white, yellow or black, doesn't make any difference. It's not the nationality but the personality of a person which is important.
“She was undisciplined and was disturbing others. Her performance was also poor so we were thinking of removing her from the camp,” he said.
Swarup Kar works for ESPN's Sportscenter