New Delhi/Lausanne: In a major embarrassment for India, the International Olympic Committee today suspended the Indian Olympic Association because of government interference in its election process, a development which puts a bar on the country's Olympic participation.
The decision to disaffiliate India was taken on the first day of the IOC's two-day Executive Board meeting in Lausanne.
The IOC said that it decided to ban India as the IOA had failed to comply with Olympic Charter and also allowed a tainted official to contest elections for a top post.
IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams told a press conference in Lausanne that India was suspended "due to its failure to comply with the Olympic Charter and its statutes and failure to inform the IOC in a timely manner."
Pere Miro, Director of IOC relations with National Olympic Committees, said that the election process of the IOA was tarnished from the beginning. He said no Indian athlete will be allowed to take part in any competition under IOC jurisdiction during the suspension.
"The election process has been tarnished since the beginning. Many different interferences, many governmental rules and their own bad interpretation of IOA statutes," said Miro.
The decision was largely expected after the IOA decided to go ahead with the elections tomorrow under the government's Sports Code, defying the IOC's diktat to hold the polls under the Olympic Charter.
The IOC had repeatedly told the IOA not follow the government's sports code for the elections on the ground that it would be a violation of the Olympic Charter and compromise autonomy. But the IOA went ahead saying they were bound by the Delhi High Court order.
"The IOA has lost all the rights covered by the Olympic Charter. Today, for Indian athletes it is not possible to take part in any competition under IOC jurisdiction. The IOC has always had the intention to protect the athletes. But for the moment, there is no exception," Miro said.
The IOC said that the elections of the Indian Olympic Association scheduled to be held tomorrow will also be "null and void" and will not be recognised by the world body.
"They are not entitled to have the elections and if they go ahead this will not be recognised. What is absolutely clear is that what has happened in the past is null and what happens now is the same," Miro said.
Suspension meant that the IOA will stop receiving IOC funding and its officials will be banned from attending Olympic meetings and events. India's athletes will be barred from competing in Olympic events under their national flag, but they can participate under the IOC banner.
While it's not clear how much money in total will be withheld from India, Miro noted that each national Olympic body receives about USD 90,000 a year in direct IOC grants. The bodies receive more money on top of that for scholarship, coaching and other development programmes.
The news of the suspension was greeted with dismay and anguish as sportspersons and IOA officials spoke about the far-reaching implications of the decision.
Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said that it was an "unfortunate decision" for Indian sports community and indicated that he was "willing to take the first step" to resolve the dispute.
"We are willing to take the first step to resolve the issue. It is not the time for a blame game. Sports Ministry is open to sit together with representatives from government, the IOC and the IOA," he said.
"Once we knew about the mess we had written to the IOC but they never responded. Now it's time to sort out the issue by sitting across the table," Jitendra said.
The IOA has the option of challenging the IOC's decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
The developments has now put a cloud of uncertainty over tomorrow's IOA elections which has already seen Abhay Singh Chautala being elected unopposed as president. Scam-tainted Lalit Bhanot had also been elected unopposed as the Secretary General.
IOA acting chief V K Malhotra said that they have been pressing the government not to impose the Sports Code on the IOA for the last two years but it has not paid any results.
"We had written to the Prime Minster on November 23 that such a thing could happen but there was no reply. The government is responsible for this," he said.
"We want that the government, the IOC and the IOA sit together and resolve the issue so that the suspension on India is lifted. We had no option but to hold the elections under the Sports Code because of the High Court order," he said.
"The IOA and the athletes will suffer because of the tussle between the government and the IOC. I hope that the issue is sorted out before the 2014 Asian Games and of course the Olympic Games in 2016," he added.
The development also triggered off a blame game within the IOA with president-in-waiting Abhay Singh Chautala holding Randhir responsible for the the fiasco.
"From the start, Randhir is responsible for the entire mess. To save his chair he can do anything. He should resign first (as IOC member from India) because he has spread all the dirt in Indian sports," Chautala said.
"Randhir should withdraw (his membership) from the IOC immediately. In tomorrow's Annual General Meeting, we will pass a resolution to withdraw Randhir from the IOC because he is no longer a member of the executive board of IOA," he said.
Randhir said it was unfair to blame him and the need of the hour was to resolve the issue.
"I have been a sportsman myself and have India's Olympic interest in mind. The IOC, IOA and Sports Ministry should sit down and sort out the issue," he said.
India earned the dubious distinction of being among a handful of countries which have faced suspension from the world sports governing body.South Africa had been suspended for its apartheid policy while Kuwait faced the same fate for government interference before it was re-admitted after the Gulf country's Olympic body amended its constitution. The Netherlands Antilles and South Sudan were also banned for not forming their national Olympic Committees.