Why Indian wrestlers won’t play under India flag at World Championships

Wrestlers will have to compete as ‘neutral athletes’

Bajrang-Punia-cwg-pti (File) Bajrang Punia holds the tricolour after winning the men's freestyle wrestling 65kg category final, at the Commonwealth Games 2022 | PTI

UWW, the world governing body for wrestling, has suspended the WFI for not conducting its elections on time, a development which will not allow Indian grapplers to compete at the upcoming World Championships under the Indian flag.

The Indian wrestlers will have to compete as 'neutral athletes' at the Olympic-qualifying World Championships, starting September 16 as the ad-hoc panel, led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, did not honour the 45-day deadline for conducting the elections.

The development has come a day before the ad-hoc panel conducts the World Championships trials in Patiala.

The IOA had appointed the ad-hoc panel on April 27 and the committee was supposed to hold elections within 45 days.

UWW had on April 28 warned that it could suspend the Indian federation if the deadline to hold elections is not honoured.

"The UWW communicated to the ad-hoc panel on Wednesday night that WFI has been suspended for not holding elections to its executive committee," an IOA source told PTI.

Meanwhile ad-hoc panel member Gian Singh told PTI that they are being kept in the dark by Bajwa on the related developments and that they are not part of decision making anymore.

"I have also heard that WFI has been suspended but I can't tell you what the ad-hoc panel will do now. Mr Bajwa does not call us for discussion any more. I did not even know how the criteria were finalised for the Worlds trials," Gian told PTI.

"Mr Bajwa is too busy, it seems," he added, indicating that the ad-hoc panel has failed to properly manage issues at hand.

Bajwa was contacted for a comment but he did not return calls or respond to text messages.

The Indian women's team at the recent U-20 World Championship in Amman had won the team title for the first time in the Indian wrestling history ahead of powerhouses like Japan and USA.

The wrestlers earned points because they were representing their country but now at the senior world championships in Serbia, the Indians will compete as 'neutral athletes' and their performances will not be counted as India's.

The wrestlers, though, can compete under the Indian flag the Asian Games, starting September 23 in Hangzhou, since it's the IOA which has sent entries and not the WFI.

At the Worlds, it is the WFI which has to send entries after selecting a team through trials.

Originally, the WFI was to hold elections on May 7 but the Sports Ministry had declared the process as null and void and subsequently IOA installed an ad-hoc panel to run the sport in the country.

The elections have been delayed several times after that with multiple disgruntled and disaffiliated state bodies moving the court, seeking the right to participate in the polls.

Multiple Delays

The Returning Officer had originally set July 11 as the date for WFI elections but the Assam association moved the Gauhati High Court and succeeded in getting a stay on the polls on June 25 and the next hearing was set for July 28.

However, the Andhra state association challenged the decision in the Supreme Court which quashed the Gauhati High Court decision on July 18, paving the way for the conduct of the polls.

The Returning officer then declared August 12 as the new poll date but a day before the elections, Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the process on an application moved by Haryana Wrestling Association (HWA), which was led by Deepinder Singh Hooda before being suspended by WFI.

HWA had challenged the move to allow Haryana Amateur Wrestling Association to cast votes in the WFI polls.

Now this case is also pending in the Supreme Court and is likely to be heard on Friday.

Livid UWW

The UWW in its letter on April 28, which was also marked to IOA and the Sports Ministry, had reminded that it has already taken "a measure in this situation by reallocating the Asian Championship planned in New Delhi earlier this year."

The Championship was moved out of the country due to the controversy surrounding the outgoing WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who has been accused of sexually abusing several women wrestlers.

The case is already in a Delhi court.


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