NEW DELHI: In a huge embarrassment for India, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday suspended the Indian Olympic Association because of government interference, a development which puts a bar on the country's Olympic participation.
Two officials with knowledge of the decision said that a formal decision about the suspension will be made at the end of the first day's Executive Board meeting.
The decision was largely expected after the IOA decided to go ahead with the elections on Wednesday under the government's Sports Code, defying the IOC's diktat to hold the polls under the Olympic Charter.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made yet.
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.
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.
The IOA top brass said that they were not aware of the decision yet as no communication has been sent to them yet. Sports Minister Jitendra Singh said that it was an "unfortunate decision" for Indian sports community.
"Once we knew about the mess we had written to the IOC but they never responded," 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. Scam-tainted Lalit Bhanot had also been elected unopposed as the Secretary General.
IOA acting chief VK 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.
India earns the dubious distinction 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.
The development sparked off outrage among India's top athletes who expressed anguish at the IOC decision. Some of the former athletes like sprinter Ashwini Nachappa and shooter Moraad Ali Khan who blamed the squabbling within the IOA for the fiasco.
The IOC had last week made it clear that it would propose the suspension of the IOA in its Executive Board Meeting if the IOA elections are held under the government's Sports Code.
In a letter written by IOC Director General Christophe de Kepper to IOA acting chief VK Malhotra, the world body rejected IOA's request to send an international delegation to resolve the issue and said it would initiate the process of suspending the Indian sports body.
The world body reiterated its directive to the IOA as expressed in its letter on November 23 to present its position to the IOC by November 30 or face suspension.
Malhotra has responded to the IOC's letter in which he has explained the IOA's stand and why it was compelled to follow the High Court's order in relation to the polls.
The elections to the IOA have been marred by controversy over the issue of under which framework they would be held and this had led to the resignation of IOA-appointed Election Commission Chairman SY Quraishi and later presidential candidate Randhir Singh withdrawing from the race.
Taking into account Delhi High Court's order, the Quraishi-led Commission had ruled that the IOA polls would be held under the government's Sports Code, which in turn, invited IOC's directive to the IOA to "exclusively" apply the Olympic Charter and the IOA Constitution.
Quraishi, a former Chief Election Commissioner of India, then stepped down, citing the backtracking by the IOA to apply the Sports Code. Justice (retd) Anil Dev Singh was appointed by the IOA in his place.
Quraishi's resignation led to the postponement of the elections from November 25 to December 5, but a relentless IOC was not happy with the confusion surrounding the code under which the polls would be held.
Randhir Singh, who is an IOC member and Secretary General of both the OCA and the IOA, withdrew his nomination for the post of president, saying that since the world body had said the polls would not be recognised if they are held under the Sports Code, he cannot go against the institution he belongs to.
IOA's position has been that it has been opposing the Sports Code from the beginning but will have to abide by the Delhi High Court order to hold the elections under the Sports Code.