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Vaccine priority, job security, gender neutrality for our athletes - positive recommendations by parliamentary committee 

Vaccine priority, job security, gender neutrality for our athletes - positive recommendations by parliamentary committee 

Md Imtiaz

Published: 25 Dec 2020 5:05 AM GMT

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports on Thursday has recommended priority Covid-19 vaccination for athletes before Olympics and bio-bubbles for their training ahead of the global sporting event. “Athletes, as well as coaches and support staff going for the Olympics, should be put in the priority group for the vaccination process,” the committee has said in a report.

Besides, hosting of more international events in India, the financial security of medal-winning athletes and their coaches even after retirement, gender neutrality, life insurance and health insurance for all Olympians and “stop slashing support to national sports federations (NSF) funds”, were some of the other recommendations given by the committee.

The committee led by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Rajya Sabha MP, had listed out recommendations to the sports ministry. The committee suggested that the sports ministry and the NSFs must ensure players get enough international exposure and “get an opportunity to play maximum international tournaments before the 2021 Olympic Games”, as due to COVID, there were less international/national competitions this year.

The committee has also recommended a National Olympic Scholarship Programme in a phased manner. “It must guarantee minimum, but fixed financial aid to every athlete who does well at the national level. This funding needs to be scaled up as athletes begin to compete on the world stage.”

The panel went on to recommend under the head – Best Practices – “Focus should be on sending sporstpersons and athletes for training abroad so that they have the best training at international standards of excellence”.

The committee has sought “individualized programs for athletes capable of reaching finals or medal hopefuls, and also… sending them abroad as soon as possible in a bubble environment where top scientific infrastructure is available”. It has suggested psychological, mental, and nutritional assessment of athletes to help them recover from the impact of the pandemic. “Due to [the Covid-19] lockdown and travel restrictions, there was a loss of international/national competition exposure which has hugely affected the training of the athletes.”

The panel took exception to lack of coaches in Sports Authority of India (SAI) and also took notice of the fact that quite a few foreign coaches had resigned and returned to their countries due to the pandemic. “About 561 vacancies exist. This is unacceptable,” the report said. Lack of qualified coaches has been one area the SAI has not been able to fix for quite some time. With the opening of various National Centre of Excellences, the demand for coaches has increased. The panel also said that an immediate survey should be carried out in collaboration with the NSFs to gauge requirements for coaches, including personal coaches for athletes.

The panel talked about doctors and physiotherapists at SAI centres too. According to the report, “medical staff and other medical equipment (like X-ray, MRI) should be made available at select SAI and training centres”. Another area the committee touched upon, under the head, institutional support, is interesting. “The government should be swift in making decisions and granting approvals viz, financial grants, equipment, representation in international competitions, etc. to avoid unnecessary delays,” the report said.

To avoid sexist behaviour and sexual harassment, efforts should be made to sensitise male athletes and coaches on gender issues. In fact, it went to emphasise that all schemes and incentives designed for the athletes should be gender neutral. The panel suggested that women should be encouraged to take up sports so that in future, Olympic contingent will consist of equal number of men and women athlete.

The committee has also suggested the setting up of an independent National Anti-Doping Authority with a full-time helpline for athletes to seek advice. “It should be made clear to all the athletes that instances of doping will not be taken lightly.”

The report asked the ministry to work towards building world-class infrastructure and facilities as per international standards. “A sincere and institutionalized effort should be made to ensure the maintenance of the infrastructure...”

Also read: Parliamentary panel seeks priority vaccination for athletes before Olympics

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