Under pressure, IOA amends constitution to bar tainted persons

New Delhi, Dec 8: Faced with the threat of being thrown out of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the suspended Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was Sunday forced to amend its constitution to bar tainted and chargesheeted individuals from contesting its elections during its Special General Body Meeting (SGBM). The IOA also announced that fresh elections will be held February 9.

Hours after IOC president Thomas Bach threatened to throw out India from the Olympic movement, the IOA amended the constitution according to the IOC directive.

The IOC last month set a deadline of December 9 for the IOA to amend the constitution failing which it would recommend to its executive board, scheduled to meet December 10-11, to de-recognise India.

S. Reghunathan, who chaired the SGBM that was attended by 134 members, said Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot, who are the president and the secretary general of the suspended IOA, will be ineligible to contest the Feb 9 elections. Both Chautala and Bhanot are facing serious charges of corruption.

Reghunathan also said that the duo need not step down now and can do so after the amendments are approved by the IOC.

“The House unanimously decided to amend the relevant clause in IOA constitution which would bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections. Both Chautala and Bhanot told the House that they will not contest the upcoming elections. In fact, Chautala proposed the amendment while Bhanot seconded it. We also decided to hold elections on February 9,” said Reghunathan, adding that the ban on India could be lifted after the IOC executive board meeting.

The IOA during its October 27 SGBM had tried its best to protect the tainted individuals by diluting the IOC directive on the charge-framed clause. It had proposed to refer such cases to its internal Ethics Commission but the IOC rejected it outrightly.

The amended clause now reads: “Where charges have been framed by any court in India, in respect of an offence which is of serious nature under Indian Penal Code/Prevention of Corruption Act in which punishment of imprisonment of more than 2 years is prescribed then the member/office- bearer/member of executive council of IOA will resign immediately and if not they will be provisionally suspended and will not be eligible to contest in elections and the case will be referred to IOA Ethics Commission for further guidance.”

Reghunathan said if the amendment is accepted by the IOC board then the year-long suspension will be lifted in seven days. The IOC had slapped India with a suspension notice for its flawed election process Dec 4 last year.

Chautala said the amendment clause was agreed upon following pressure from the apex body.

“We have done this only for the sake of the country and our athletes. We still don’t agree to the IOC’s chargesheet clause, because that is not the law of our country. You can check with all IOA members, we did this only after pressure from the IOC. This is only why we have agreed to amend our constitution,” said Chautala.

Bhanot also said that he would not contest the elections.

“I am not contesting elections as after the amendment is made, I am ineligible. We decided to amend the constitution in the interest of Indian athletes. I don’t want to be a hindrance to the interest of the athletes,” he said.