The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Athletes Commission Chairman Malav Shroff’s guidelines for formation of the Athletes’ Commissions in various National Sports Federations (NSFs) has stirred a veritable hornet’s nest. For, it makes a whole lot of Asian Games medallists and Arjuna Award winners ineligible for election to such Athletes’ Commissions.
Shroff has given first preference to all Olympians from the last six editions and the second preference to all medallists in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. In doing that, he indicates that an athlete who finished 19th and last in an Olympic Games is available for election while a multiple Asian Games medallist from before 2010 would be ruled out.
Such deliberate construct of electoral colleges in NSFs had led to confusion, chaos and, at times, allegations of anarchy. An athlete embracing the ploy is indicative of the deep-rooted malaise in the Indian sports firmament. Clearly, Shroff has ignored the composition of the commission that he heads in IOA. One of his colleagues, not an Olympian, played the Asian Games in 1990.
One of the first NSFs to use this to its advantage is the Equestrian Federation of India.
It has considered holding elections for its Athletes Commission according to these guidelines issued by the IOA Athletes’ Commission Chairman. These guidelines have led to the exclusion of 1980 Olympians, including JS Ahluwalia, and several Arjuna Award winners and Asian Games medallists including Adhiraj Singh, Rajesh Pattu and Deep Kumar Ahlawat.
There really is no reason why those who have represented India with distinction, won medals and earned national awards should be excluded from being members of and getting elected to their respective NSF’s Athletes’ Commissions. It is crucial that IOA sends out the right signals at a time when it is eager to be seen as having embraced good governance practices.
Curiously, in writing the guidelines, Shroff has overlooked IOA Secretary-General Rajiv Mehta’s missive to the NSFs saying that they must replicate the rules laid down by their respective International Federations (IFs). It is not clear if Shroff’s guidelines have the sanction of the IOA Executive Committee, let alone the General Assembly.
It is imperative for the Indian Olympic Association to issue a well-articulated set of guidelines. Until that happens, the National Sports Federations must follow the procedures that their respective international federations adopt in electing athletes’ representatives to their decision-making bodies.
This article first appeared in Mail Today on February 1, 2019.