NEW DELHI: The national anthem will not be played and the tricolour will not go up inside the arena when an Indian wrestler finishes on the podium at the World Championships in Serbia next month. Indian wrestlers will participate there as ‘neutral athletes’ because the United World Wrestling (UWW) – the sport’s global governing body – Thursday suspended the Indian federation (WFI) for its failure to hold elections in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against outgoing chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
After its two earlier warnings to conduct elections to the WFI’s new executive council went unheeded, the UWW said it was left with no other choice but to suspend WFI with immediate effect.
Indian wrestlers will compete as ‘neutral athletes’ in Worlds
The World Championships is a qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Selection trials for the Worlds are scheduled to be held in Patiala August 25 and 26. According to sources, the trials will go ahead as planned and the Indian wrestling contingent for the Worlds will be named in all three categories – men’s and women’s freestyle and greco-roman.
The Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) two-member ad-hoc committee – formed to run the day-to-day affairs of WFI – delayed holding the elections following litigation by disgruntled member state units of the WFI. With its 45-day deadline to conclude the electoral process running out, the UWW cracked the whip.
IOA’s joint secretary and acting CEO Kalyan Chaubey confirmed having received a mail from the UWW headquarters in Lausanne, informing about the cancellation of WFI’s membership. Indian wrestlers will compete under UWW’s flag at the Belgrade Worlds starting September 16. However, the wrestlers will not face such issues at the Asian Games and can compete under the tricolour as IOA will send the entries to the organisers, not WFI. The same courtesy will not be extended for any international meet where UWW is the organiser.
UWW had twice threatened the IOA’s ad-hoc committee – first in May and later in July – for dishonouring the 45-day deadline to conduct elections. “Failing to do so may lead UWW to suspend the federation, thereby forcing the athletes to compete under a neutral flag,” the world body had warned in May.
WFI was to conduct its elections on May 7 but the ministry declared the process null and void following interference by Brij Bhushan and his coterie of loyalists. Later, the ad-hoc committee appointed a Returning Officer (RO), former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Mahesh Mittal Kumar, who set July 11 as the date for WFI elections. However, the Assam wrestling association moved the Gauhati high court and got a stay on the poll process.

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