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Justice should be delivered to wrestlers: IOA athlete's commission member Karhana

IOA's Athlete's Commission member OP Karhana came in support of the protesting wrestlers against the WFI Chief.

Justice should be delivered to wrestlers: IOA athletes commission member Karhana

Indian wrestlers at Jantar Mantar during their sit-in protest (Pritish Raj/The Bridge)



Updated: 3 May 2023 7:07 AM GMT

Indian Olympic Association's Athlete's Commission member Om Prakash Karhana on Tuesday came out in support of the protesting wrestlers, who had accused WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment and intimidation, saying "justice should be delivered to athletes who are fighting for their rights".

The 36-year-old Karhana, a former national record holder shot putter and Asian champion, said sweeping the allegations of the wrestlers under the carpet would harm Indian sport as athletes will lose their faith in the system.

"I'm not speaking on behalf of the athletes commission but my personal view is that if athletes have come out in the open to fight for their rights, the system in the country should take steps to deliver justice to them as soon as possible," Karhana, who retired last year, told PTI.

"Especially in a case relating to women athletes, the authorities should not sweep anything under the carpet. It's a serious matter and should be dealt with through a proper and fair process to find out the truth. "It should be black and white regarding who is doing wrong things -- whether the accused or the accusor," said the 2012 London Olympian who has a personal best of 20.69m.

The Delhi Police took time to register an FIR against Singh after seven wrestlers complained to him. Two FIRs were later registered against Singh on Friday last.

Karhana, who was the third Indian to cross the 20m mark in men's shot put, felt that the wrestlers' protest will have an impact on Indian sports. "I come from a village and in many villages, women are still discouraged to take up sports. So, if the authorities do not take the matter seriously and probe the allegations by women athletes in a fair process, no parent will allow them to go out and play sports."

"Ultimately, it will be the loss of the country as the talented athletes from the villages will not take up sports," said Karhana who won the shot put gold at the Asian Championships in 2009 and followed it up with two bronze medals in the 2011 and 2013 editions.

The 10-member Athlete's Commission has not taken a stand after wrestlers resumed their sit-in protest on April 24. A few members, though, have expressed their solidarity with the wrestlers individually.

"As an institution, the Athlete's Commission has not issued a collective statement. But some individual members have done that. "The athlete's commission (with full rights and powers) is a new concept, so there may be some confusion over its rights and duties. Some members are not even fully aware of their roles and responsibilities. "We are also learning and that's why it's taking time. We are still discussing the matter and I am hoping that a statement will come from the Athlete's Commission," Karhana said.

Six members of the athlete's commission, including Karhana, had a meeting on Saturday and made recommendations to the IOA to put in place proper systems to deal with issues of the athletes with respect and dignity.

Karhana was not willing to speak on what transpired during the meeting, saying only the chairperson or the vice chairperson of the commission can issue public statements. "I can't speak about the discussions during the meeting. But if a commission, which is set up for the betterment of the athletes, does not look into their issues, who else will do? That is what I can say," he said.

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