Olympic Roundup: India’s Legal Issues Drag On as International Suspension Looms

SwimSwam will periodically update you on the biggest news around the Olympic and Paralympic world, outside of aquatic sports. Catch up on the Indian Olympic Association’s latest efforts to avoid an international suspension, USA Gymnastics taking Roe v. Wade into consideration for future site selections, updates regarding bans of Russian athletes, and more. 

Indian Olympic Association remains in hot water

Despite three rulings by India’s Supreme Court in the past week, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is no closer to avoiding another suspension from international competition.

Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent the IOA a letter threatening the possibility of suspension if the organization didn’t hold long-overdue elections in the coming weeks. Elections were supposed to take place last December, but they have been delayed by a court case seeking to change its constitution in accordance with rules stipulated by the national sports code. 

“It is very unfortunate to note that multiple legal proceedings have been initiated, which have only caused delays and created unnecessary complications so far,” said the IOC’s letter, which pressed the IOA to resolve the situation and confirm an election date “without any further delay.”

But last Tuesday, India’s high court appointed a committee of administrators (CoA) to run the IOA due to its noncompliance with the national sports code. It was a strange move considering FIFA had just suspended the All India Football Federation for being taken over by a similar court order. 

Then on Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed course after hearing testimony that the decision could trigger an international suspension. 

“IOA submits that there is every possibility of losing the opportunity of participating in Olympic Games and other international events,” said the bench, which also included justice CT Ravi Kumar. “In view of the urgency expressed, we ask the parties to maintain the status quo. It is made clear that charge won’t be handed over to the CoA.”

On Monday, India’s high court upheld its decision blocking the CoA takeover of the IOA and scheduled a follow-up case in four weeks. The Supreme Court also axed the position of “Life President” and any permanent post in the organization, setting term limits to “three tenures.” But by the time the high court will hear the matter again in a month, Indian athletes might already be facing sanctions for something out of their control.

A suspension by the IOC would cut off key IOA funding, prevent Indian officials from attending Olympic meetings, and keep athletes from competing under the Indian flag at the Olympics. 

This isn’t the first time that the IOA has been in trouble with the IOC. At the end of 2012, the IOA received a ban from the IOC in the wake of a corruption-tainted official being elected secretary general. After voting in new officials, the IOA had its Olympic status restored for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

The IOA’s latest controversy escalated to a new level in July when former president Narinder Batra resigned in July. He’s being investigated for misuse of Hockey India funds. 

USA Gymnastics will consider abortion laws in future site selections

With the USA Gymnastics Championships wrapping up Sunday in Tampa Florida, the federation’s executive chief told the Associated Press that local abortion laws will factor in to future site selections. 

“We want to be able to align with cities and locations that are also aligned with our value system,” Li Li Leung said. “We are about empowerment. We are about choice. We are about agency.”

Tampa was chosen as the host for this year’s senior nationals back in January, months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Following that decision, Florida prohibited abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with limited exceptions. 

Two major competitions are currently scheduled next year in Katy, Texas: the American Cup in July and a World Championships selection event in September. Last year, Texas passed a law banning abortion after about six weeks. 

Russian, Belarusian bans still going strong

IOC president Thomas Bach recently reiterated his stance on banning Russia and Belarus from international competition as punishment for their ongoing war against Ukraine.

“Those responsible for this war of aggression have to be punished: that is the Russian government,” Bach said. “We have successfully appealed to all international federations that there should be no international sporting events in Russian and Belarusian. We have issued this recommendation and it remains in force. Now is not the time to reverse this recommendation and change the position. We also recommend not to invite Russian or Belarusian athletes: no anthems, no flags, no colors.”

“I am grateful to the international federations for following us,” he added. “That athletes who support the war, who appear or advertise with the infamous ‘Z,’ are sanctioned.”

IPC president Andrew Parsons indicated that the question of Russian and Belarusian participation in Paris could be answered in November.

“What I can say is that we had a very strong positioning of our own membership during the Beijing [Winter Paralympic Games against Russian and Belarusian participation], and this to me was really impressive and really good to see how the movement will get in that direction,” Parsons said.

“If our movement decided they [Russia and Belarus] will not be at the [Paris] Games, yes, we will miss some athletes but sport will survive.”

Paralympic inclusion in Commonwealth Games not an Olympic precursor

The inclusion of 42 Paralympic events at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month was a success, but a similar partnership at the Olympics doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

“Since 1988, we have seen exponential growth in Paralympic sport,” said Craig Spence, communications chief for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). “We are on a strong ascendancy and growing the Games so combining both events would potentially stunt and jeopardise that growth, and we could potentially go backwards.

“This is a conversation that crops up regularly, but you have to look to see if it makes sense to bring both Games together and at the moment we believe it doesn’t. The current agreement works for us at the moment. It serves us well and we like it and are keen to keep it.”

A combined Games would be difficult logistically, bringing together about 15,000 total athletes (plus coaches and staff), if numbers were similar to last summer in Tokyo, for nearly 900 events.

“Our fear is if you were to bring both events together you would hear much less about Paralympic performances and you would jeopardize the impact of the Games being the most transformational sporting event on earth,” Spence said. “Our ambition is to continue growing the Paralympics and there is so much more potential there to make the Games even better.”

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About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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