Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra has appealed for the infighting within the top sports body of the country to stop after it reached the doors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In a recent statement Batra asked that all officials and members shun the infighting and instead “work collaboratively towards the best interests of athletes and development of their respective sports."
The appeal was part of a larger statement after the latest episode in a saga of infighting within the IOA. The latest involves the release of an audio note where the General Secretary of the Karate Association Ambedkar Gupta accuses Batra of threatening him over the phone. Gupta said Batra intimidated him, saying that he would 'finish off his career' for messing with him.
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Batra dismissed the authenticity of the audio note, saying its incomplete nature and appearance devoid of context was ‘a mischievous act to reflect misleading facts made with the ulterior motive of projecting me in poor light’.
Batra has precedent for abusive behaviour on record against various officials, the most publicised of which was his tirade against England hockey and the English law agencies in 2017.
Batra accused English enforcement authorities of acting in an inappropriate manner, summoning former India captain Sardar Singh for interrogation on a sexual abuse complaint during the 2017 HWL Semifinals in London. The FIH had distanced themselves from Batra’s (who is FIH President) comments, and reprimanded him for them.
The entire saga around the infighting in the IOA began with a tussle between the top two officials in the IOA, when Batra informed Secretary General Rajeev Mehta that he wants to take over a few responsibilities from him to “share his burden”.
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A series of back and forth allegations and rebuttals between Batra and Mehta followed, reaching a point where Batra’s appointment to the top post of the IOA was also questioned. All of this culminated in the IOA vice president Sudhanshu Mittal asking for a fresh inquiry against Batra in an appeal to the IOC.
Mittal, who had earlier written to the IOC alleging irregularities in Batra's election as IOA President, wrote again to IOC President Thomas Bach, claiming to have evidence of wrongdoing by Batra.
"The admission in Dr. Batra's message to you (Bach), as 'Life Member' of Hockey India to Indian Olympic Association exposed his violation of the law of the land, National Sports Code of India, 2011, which does not permit for voting rights of Life Member in any National Sports Federation in the General Assembly," Mittal alleged in his letter to Bach.
Mittal, in a letter to the FIH, also went on to allege ‘a major cover up’ that was done so that Batra could contest the election for the top sports job of the country. Batra has denied this claim in a communication to Bach.
“I would personally like to assure you that I have at no stage flouted any of the Rules and Regulations of the Indian Olympic Association or the International Hockey Federation in my election as President of the Indian Olympic Association which was held on 14 December 2017,” Batra wrote.
Batra and Mehta have also been giving opposing views on the resumption of sporting activities in the country ever since sports was put on halt, before the lockdown.
While Batra expects the action to resume by October, Mehta is less optimistic and has asserted that athletes shouldn't be rushed back to training or competition given the rising cases in the country.
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