The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the alleged manhandling by Delhi Police of protesting wrestlers over the weekend by calling it “disturbing” and urged the authorities to ensure the “well-being of the athletes” throughout the investigation against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) sidelined chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
Close on the heels of a similar statement by United World Wrestling, the sport’s world governing body, the IOC also urged the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take all necessary action to protect the protesting wrestlers.
Since April 23, prominent Indian wrestlers led by Olympians Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat have been staging a protest at the Jantar Mantar demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh over sexual harassment of female athletes, including a minor.
“The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law.
“We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes are duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded,” IOC said in a statement given to some media houses.
The IOC also confirmed its close communication with the United World Wrestling (UWW), the global governing body for the sport, regarding the matter.
“From the very beginning of the allegations, the IOC has been in close contact with United World Wrestling (UWW), which has already taken measures.
“The IOC supports UWW as the competent sporting authority to address this issue as it pertains to the governance of the sport of wrestling in India. We have been informed by UWW that the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is currently not in charge.
“The IOC will continue to support UWW in all their efforts and in the framework of the IOC Guidelines for International Federations and NOCs for safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport.
“The IOC also urges the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take all necessary actions to protect the athletes and to make sure that the elections of WFI are happening as planned and in line with the regulations of UWW as an International Federation,” the statement further read.
Last weekend, the protesting wrestlers were detained by the Delhi Police during their march towards the new Parliament building.
As the protesters tried to breach the security cordon, a fierce tussle broke out — the wrestlers and cops pushed, shoved and grappled with one another.
The following day, the wrestlers threatened to discard their medals into the river Ganga in Haridwar and go on an indefinite hunger strike at the India Gate.
After the incident, UWW condemned the manhandling of the wrestlers on Tuesday in a strong statement and also threatened of suspending the Wrestling Federation of India if the election process is not completed within the 45 days deadline.
The IOA appointed a two-member Ad-hoc Committee of Suma Shirur and Bhupender Singh Bajwa to oversee the Wrestling Federation of India’s office. A retired High Court Judge will also be appointed to ensure impartial and transparent voting.