During his passionate speech at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters on Wednesday,Abhinav Bindra unleashed a veiled attack on the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). The Beijing Olympics gold medallist didn’t shy away from comparing the IOA officials to postmen and highlighted the trust deficit that exists between the sportspersons and officials.
Bindra couldn’t have chosen a better platform to point out what the truth was. Ironically,almost at the same time as Bindra was making his speech in Lausanne,Rajya Vardhan Singh Rathore found himself locked in a bitter battle with the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) back home. A report claiming Rathore had flunked a dope test nine years ago,was dug out of the dead suspiciously. The Athens Games silver medallist was quick to trade his gun on the NRAI,saying he was a victim of vendetta. Talk about athletes and lack of trust among the officials! To borrow a shooting term,Bindra had scored perfect 10 with his words.
Almost every sportsperson will have a tale of apathy because of the officialdom,and of being forced to deal with men who hardly understand their sport. You come across stories of IOA mismanagement that directly impact athletes’ interests at almost every Olympics,Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games. The IOA so far has shown little urgency or diplomacy that was needed to deal with this situation. The clean-up act an urgently desired spring-cleaning in sport which was expected to take place after the country was suspended last December,has never really happened. And the reformations that have now been promised will need to go beyond superficial assurances of following the government guidelines.
If the IOA is serious about the reforms it has pledged during the meeting with the IOC,its challenge will be to win back the trust of the players. As the IOC had pointed out earlier,it’s not just the constitution that the IOA has to change,they need to renew their attitude towards the Olympic movement as well.
Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai.