There can be little disagreement on the point that barring a few instances the administration of sports in India is run by men who are not above board in terms of ethics and integrity. There are men in various sports bodies who have no interest in sports but find in the latter a convenient route to make money and to extend their patronage. This goes against the very idea of sports as an activity that is pure and aimed at testing the physical skill and stamina of human beings. The International Olympic Committee, which sees itself as a body committed to maintaining the highest standards in sports, is entirely justified in viewing the Indian Olympic Association with some amount of suspicion. It will be recalled that India was suspended from the Olympic movement in December 2012 after Lalit Bhanot was elected the secretary-general of the IOA. Mr Bhanot has been charged with corruption regarding his activities in the Commonwealth Games of 2010 which were plagued by crass corruption and rank inefficiency. The IOC’s point has been simple: it has asked the IOA to amend its constitution so that persons with chargesheets against them cannot become office-bearers. The IOA took shelter behind the argument that there is a difference between a chargesheet and a conviction. The IOA said it was willing to bar those who had been convicted from holding office. This plea of the IOA has not been accepted so the ban on India remains.
The principle of “innocent till proven guilty” is a nice point of jurisprudence and is valid in the court of law. But the IOC is not making a legal point. It is most emphatically making an ethical point. It is linking the highest standards of ethics with the high standards expected from all those related to sporting activities. Sportsmen and sports administrators, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion and should act as exemplars to the rest of society. This is what the IOC expects in keeping with the noble aims and aspirations of the Olympic Games. It is true that with the growth of intense competition in sports, the high ethical standards associated with sporting activities have nose dived. But no one as yet has advocated tolerance towards corruption. The IOA should stop quibbling and accept the point that the IOC is making. Sportsmen in India should not be made victims of the IOA’s stubbornness and of its petty vested interests.