Concerned UWW to appoint observer for WFI elections, WFI complains of interference
United World Wrestling has demanded clarity on the situation of WFI and looking to appoint an observer for the elections.
"Concerned" about the ongoing turmoil in Indian wrestling, United World Wrestling (UWW) President Nenad Lalovic has demanded clarity on who is running the sport in the country, and in its response, the WFI has complained of "government interference" in their matters.
Lalovic shot a letter to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) on April 28 and marked a copy to Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha and International Olympic Committee (IOC) official J Poivey.
India's top wrestlers, including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Sakshi Malik, are demanding the arrest of WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh after accusing him of sexually exploiting women wrestlers.
The IOA, after being asked by the sports ministry, has formed an 'ad hoc' panel to manage the day-to-day affairs of the federation. The sports ministry also stalled the WFI elections and asked the IOA to conduct the polls.
In his letter, Lalovic wrote, "It is not clear who exactly enters the athletes in the UWW events and who is in charge of the daily management of the federation. It seems that the Secretary General of the WFI is still in place and works actively."
"The information that UWW received from the media these days is that the investigation report on alleged harassment and abuse by Mr. Singh has been finalized in early April and was forwarded to the Ministry of Sport," Lalovic wrote in his letter.
"To date, no other action has been taken and the wrestlers have resumed their sitting protest. In addition, the WFI convened an elective general assembly on 7 May 2023. "I am very concerned about all this and I urge you to provide UWW with official and accurate information about the situation. We reserve the right to take measures in case of failure to do so," Lalovic's letter, in possession of PTI, read further.
The world body chief also wrote that "UWW usually appoints an observer to national federations' elections when particular situations warrant it."
"This is the case with the WFI and we would be glad to be informed about the status of this matter so we can make the necessary arrangements," he wrote.
In its reply, WFI told UWW that the role of the Oversight Committee is over and it conducted the National Championships apart from holding the Emergency General Council Meeting and also announced the elections for which Brij Bhushan Sharan cannot contest for the post of President.
"We were going to write to UWW asking for an Observer for the said elections but the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India interfered and issued direction that the election was null and void and the same would be conducted by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which is against the rule of IOC Charter."
"It is not understood how could the Ministry interfere in the functioning of the National Sports Federation, which is an Autonomous Body," WFI wrote, adding that it (the wrestlers' protest) was a big conspiracy against the WFI President made by the opposition leaders by using the wrestlers.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed to PTI that it was aware of the issue in Indian wrestling.
"The situation of the Wrestling Federation in India is being monitored by the International Federation concerned (United World Wrestling – UWW) and the IOA has been requested to liaise and work closely with UWW to coordinate any action vis-à-vis the Wrestling Federation in India," an IOC spokesperson told PTI.
"The IOC stands together with all athletes to state that harassment and abuse of any kind are contrary to the values of Olympism. "Athletes' safety and wellbeing is a priority for the IOC and is in line with its mission, stated in the Olympic Charter, to promote safe sport and the protection of athletes from all forms of harassment and abuse.
"Safeguarding is an extremely complex topic requiring specialized, sensitive, and comprehensive approaches to prevent and ensure an appropriate response to harassment and abuse to protect and support affected individuals. "As this incident is under investigation by the relevant organizations, we cannot comment further on individual cases."