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Thursday, August 11, 2022

SAI terminates contract of coach accused of sexually harassing cyclist

In a separate statement, the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) identified the complainant and the coach, said it stands “with the complainant” and has formed a probe panel of its own.

Written by Mihir Vasavda |
Updated: June 9, 2022 3:54:02 pm
The swift action on the cyclist’s complaint is a welcome departure from how similar cases have been dealt with in the past. (Representative Image/Getty)

Days after a top Indian woman cyclist accused national team chief coach RK Sharma of sexual harassment, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) terminated his contract, noting that ‘prima facie, the case is established and the allegations of the athlete are found to be true.’

In her complaint to SAI, the cyclist had claimed that Sharma had behaved inappropriately with her on multiple instances during a training camp in Slovenia in May. Sharma, who was originally scheduled to return on June 14, was called back to New Delhi immediately and is now likely to reach the Capital on Thursday. On Wednesday evening, SAI served Sharma his termination letter.

The cyclist’s complaint was brought to light on Monday by SAI in a brief statement, which said she was “immediately” brought back “to ensure her safety” — and that a panel has been set up to “investigate the matter”, which “is being dealt (with) on priority”.

In a separate statement, the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) identified the complainant and the coach, said it stands “with the complainant” and has formed a probe panel of its own.

SAI said the committee it had constituted had submitted its preliminary report on Wednesday. “And Prima facie the case is established and the allegations of the athlete are found to be true,” SAI said in a media release. “The coach who was hired on recommendation of the Cycling Federation of India had a contract with the Sports Authority of India. Following the report, SAI has terminated the contract of the coach with immediate effect. The committee will continue detailed investigation into the case and submit a final report.”

Sharma, a retired Air Force HR manager, has been the national coach since 2014 and worked with several junior and senior cyclists during this period. Under him, the team travelled to Slovenia to prepare for the Asian Championship, which will be held in New Delhi from June 18 to 22.

However, the woman cyclist – the only woman travelling with the team – alleged in her complaint that Sharma forced her to stay in his room, offered her a “post-training massage”, “forcefully” tried to pull her towards him, and asked her to “sleep with him” during the camp. She added that the coach told her he wanted her ‘to be his wife’.

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When she resisted, Sharma allegedly threatened to destroy her career by “removing her from the NCOE”, and making sure she would “sell vegetables on the road”. The cyclist quit the camp mid-way but before she left for India, Sharma called her family and asked them to get her married as she did not have a future in the sport, according to the complaint.

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First published on: 08-06-2022 at 08:44:15 pm

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