The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has issued a strongly-worded statement on the treatment of the wrestlers in I ndia amidst their protest against Wrestling Federation of India Chief Brij Bhushan Singh. India’s top wrestlers have been on a long-standing protest demanding strict action against the WFI chief for sexually harassing female players for years.
These allegations were made by Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sangeeta Phogat, who have further demanded to disband the federation. As the protests hit a tipping point, the wrestlers were involved in a physical altercation with Delhi Police after which multiple disturbing visuals of wrestlers being manhandled by the officers were making the rounds.
Addressing this entire situation, the IOC criticised the manner in which the protesting Indian wrestlers were being treated by Delhi Police over the weekend and released a statement about their stance. IOC described it to be ‘very disturbing’ and further requested the Indian authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of the wrestlers.
“The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law,” the IOC said in the statement.
“We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and well-being of these athletes is duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded.”
The IOC further said in its statement expressed that they have been working in tandem with the United World Wrestling to take measures to safeguard the wrestlers. Both international bodies have questioned the WFI and further expressed that they hope that the Indian Olympic Association takes the necessary steps to protect its athletes.
The statement further added, “From the very beginning of the allegations, the IOC has been in close contact with United World Wrestling (UWW), which has already taken measures. The IOC supports UWW as the competent sporting authority to address this issue as it pertains to the governance of the sport of wrestling in India. We have been informed by UWW that the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is currently not in charge.”
“The IOC will continue to support UWW in all their efforts and in the framework of the IOC Guidelines for International Federations and NOCs for safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport. The IOC asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take the necessary actions “to protect the athletes and to make sure that the elections of WFI are happening as planned and in line with the regulations of UWW as an International Federation”