Sports Ethics turn a new low
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has derecognized the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) over its “blatant violation of principles of ethics and good governance”.
IOA has recently conferred the “Life President” titles to two individuals who have corruption charges pending against them in Indian courts. The Ministry had objected to the same and asked the association to revert its decision.
One of the two individuals has voluntarily declined the Association’s offer till the charges pending against him are cleared by the Indian Judiciary. On the other hand, the other individual refuses to do so until asked to do the same by International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Meanwhile, we need to look at the bigger picture of Indian Sports Administration which has currently been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, including betting scandals, match fixing, nepotism, favouritism as well as gross neglect towards Indian athletes who participate in national and international tournaments.
Starting with BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) who has been under pressure to accept Lodha Committee’s recommendations regarding overhauling its organization, and the way it deals with state-level cricket organizations. The Supreme Court has accepted the report and wants BCCI to enforce the same but they are not offering whole-hearted support to it.
The recommendations are comprehensive in the way that they involve terms and tenures of its President and board members; besides setting the maximum age for its members; its dealings with state outfits affiliated to it and rotational memberships and barring Ministers or government servants from becoming its office-bearers.
Other path-breaking recommendations involved in the Lodha panel’s report such as inclusion of BCCI under RTI Act, legalization of betting, disclosure of assets and conflict of interest on part of board members, discontinuance of proxy voting, etc. are expected to increase transparency in the cricket body’s functioning.
More streamlined functioning is expected after including provisions like one state one vote, separate governing bodies for the IPL and BCCI and making Railways, Services and Universities as Associate members having no voting powers.
- Official apathy towards Indian Athletes at Rio
Rio Olympics brought India fewer medals than what was expected and the debate centered on how to revert this trend. However, the major concern was over the mindset of Indian Sports administration which has often been found guilty of lacking requisite empathy.
Athletes like wrestler Vinesh Phogat, hockey player SV Sunil, marathon runner OP Jaisha, and even badminton player Saina Nehwal found difficultly locating Medical Team which had been sent to the Olympics with them when they suffered excruciating injuries. O P Jaisha fainted when she finished her marathon as water arrangements were lacking on her Marathon track.
India had sent only two doctors with the Indian team who were not even Sports Doctors. Clearly much more needs to be done.
- IOC- IOA tussle
In 2012, IOC imposed a ban over IOA (which is India’s National Olympic Committee) after it elected some members facing corruption charges which IOC found unpalatable. In 2014, this ban was lifted after 14 months, and only after this, India could participate in 2014 Winter Olympics.
It is pertinent to note that the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi was not just a national embarrassment but a scandal for international audience which brought into focus the style of functioning of IOA.
- Embarrassment over doping
At Rio Olympics, wrestler Narsingh Yadav failed drug tests and was banned for four years. Interestingly, India had earlier allowed him to compete accepting his defense over the same. This means that Indian Sports Administration is not even serious about unethical practices like doping.
- Hockey as a dying sport
Despite being a National Sport, Indian Hockey suffers from not just public ignorance, but also official neglect. Indian Hockey does not have internationally accepted “astroturf” pitches which are very expensive and difficult to play on and thus underperform in tournaments. More focus is placed on the money earned for the sports federation and not about winning medals. Politicians manage the administration lacking any relevant experience.
- Commonwealth Games
CAG report in 2010 brought to notice a corruption scandal never seen before. It led to a total loss of 2342 crores INR to public exchequer over charges of corruption and negligence.
- Sports quota
In order to attract serious sporting talent by providing them some prospects of future job security, the governments at the state and the centre provide college admissions and public employment via a “Sports Quota”. But, it has become merely an entrance route for students seeking admission to prestigious educational institutions and high status jobs, rather than grooming their sport talent. Also, their attendances remain poor, questioning the whole rationale of balancing sports with education.
- Allegations of Nepotism and Favoritism
Time and again, it has been highlighted that organizationally well-placed players find their way into state level and national teams, overriding genuine talent. This practice was most seen in the case of Cricket whereby players continued to find their places on teams despite their apparent poor performances, while genuine players felt neglected.
- Different Sport administrations need to reform their bureaucratic organizations and transform into more dynamic ones suitable to the field of sports. In this regard, Lodha panel's report can serve a template for all sports and not just BCCI.
- Balanced focus needs to be placed on different sports rather than focusing merely on few like wrestling and Cricket.
- The official apathy needs to be removed on part of officials as well as the Indian audiences. The current Indian tendency of rewarding the successful athletes and blaming all the unsuccessful ones is not aligned with the sportsmanship spirit involved inherently in such events.
- Steps like implementing the National Sports Code; draft National Sports Development Bill will go a long way in changing the ground situation.
- Sport Medical Teams and other supportive staff accompanying India in international sporting events need to be specially trained in the field of sports.
- Different regions of the country have traditional inclinations towards certain sports such as boxing and wrestling in Haryana, Kerala in boat racing and martial arts, Mallakhamba as gymnastics in Maharashtra and Badminton in Hyderabad.
- Currently, the administration finds potential athletes and merely provides them better pre-tournament training and facilities. Instead, we need to move to "Catch-them-young system" followed by other countries like China.
- More budgetary allocation to the Sports Ministry especially with respect to improvement of infrastructural facilities, trainers and coaches is a must in order to improve India’s medal tally.
- Finally, Sports need to be developed as a possible career path for India’s youth by providing good remuneration and recognition especially when the athletes retire from their careers. Suitable pensions can be arranged in order to honor their respective contributions.