Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) membership was suspended by United World Wrestling (UWW) on Thursday for “failure to hold its elections on time.”
The judgement is a significant setback for sports in the country. After being suspended, India’s wrestlers would have to participate in the Olympic-qualifying World Championships on September 16 as “neutral athletes.”
Since a few months ago, the WFI has been in the news due to claims of sexual harassment against its previous president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh and protracted protests by India’s best wrestlers that caused election delays.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) created an ad-hoc committee to manage the wrestling federation’s business in April with the instruction to organize new elections in 45 days; however, this deadline has been repeatedly postponed since then.
In a statement released in May, the UWW expressed its “great concern” over the situation in India and cautioned that if the election deadline of 45 days was not adhered to, suspension would be an option.
“Failure to do so may result in UWW suspending the federation, forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag.” It is recalled that UWW had intervened in this matter by moving the Asian Championship that was originally scheduled to take place in New Delhi,” the UWW had stated in a statement released in May.
The Union sports ministry had ruled that the WFI election procedure was invalid, therefore it was originally scheduled to take place on May 7. Following protests against Brij Bhushan Singh, the polls have been postponed numerous times.
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