‘WFI suspension will be lifted after polls’- The New Indian Express

By Express News Service

MUMBAI:  Nenad Lalovic, United World Wrestling (UWW) president and International Olympic Committee executive board member is in India to attend the 141st IOC session in Mumbai. The visit, however, gained more significance, especially in the wake of the suspension of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) by the world governing body (UWW).

“You have to understand it is very uncomfortable for me to visit India for an IOC session when my own federation is suspended. So I don’t feel very comfortable. I would like the situation to be different,” he told reporters.

Wrestling has been under the spotlight ever since top wrestlers including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik launched a massive protest against the sidelined WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in January this year. The sport has been in a mess for almost ten months with Indian wrestlers participating in the 2023 World Championships under a neutral flag as the UWW earlier suspended the national federation.
Lalovic said the suspension will be lifted once the democratically elected body is put in place. “After the elections, if there are no complaints from stakeholders, we will lift the suspension immediately. We do not need to make it longer.”

The protesting wrestlers leveled serious allegations including sexual harassment against Brij Bhushan that eventually led to the registration of FIRs against the Uttar Pradesh strongman. The case is now pending in court. It also puts a question mark on measures in place to ensure the safety of athletes, especially women. Lalovic admitted the developments in India have made the UWW enhance the safeguarding mechanism. 
“It (safety mechanism) is also something that will be overwatched and controlled. We have appointed two of our safeguarding officers who will work closely with the national federations and instruct them on how they have to behave. The athletes will be informed where they have to go and explain their problems.”

The world body president said the world body cannot interfere with the legal system of a member country but it reacted as they have followed everything that happened during the wrestlers’ protest. “Of course, we have followed everything that happened during the wrestlers’ protest and we have concerns about the wellbeing of our athletes. This is another possibility to have a suspension but this case is being followed by Indian authorities and we certainly are not interfering with that.”

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