United World Wrestling suspends Wrestling Federation of India, Indians to participate in world championships as “neutral athletes”

United World Wrestling suspends Wrestling Federation of India, Indians to participate in world championships as "neutral athletes"

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has been suspended by United World Wrestling (UWW), the organisation that oversees wrestling, for failing to hold its elections on time. As a result, Indian wrestlers will not be able to play under the Indian flag at the coming World Championships.

The ad-hoc body, headed by Bhupender Singh Bajwa, did not adhere to the 45-day deadline for holding elections, and thus the Indian wrestlers will have to compete at the Olympic-qualifying World Championships beginning September 16 as “neutral athletes.”

The ad hoc panel was appointed by the IOA on April 27 and elections were to be held by the committee within 45 days. Earlier, the United World Wrestling warned the WFI that if the elections were pushed back, they would be suspended.

On August 12, there were to be elections for the 15 posts on the WFI’s governing board. Four candidates submitted their nominations for the position of president at the Olympic Bhawan in New Delhi on Monday, including Sanjay Singh from Uttar Pradesh, a close aide of outgoing Wrestling Federation of India chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Meanwhile, Darshan Lal of the Chandigarh wrestling body was nominated as general secretary, and SP Deswal of Uttarakhand as treasurer.

Following a plea filed by the Haryana Wrestling Association (HWA), the Punjab and Haryana High Court on August 11, the day before the scheduled WFI elections, stayed the highly anticipated elections until further orders.

Notably, the WFI was suspended twice—first in January, then again in May—after India’s top wrestlers challenged its operation and claimed that Brij Bhushan, the organisation’s then-president, had harassed female wrestlers. As reported earlier, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was granted bail by Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court on July 20th in a case pertaining to the alleged sexual harassment of women wrestlers. Currently, the WFI’s daily operations are supervised by the  Indian Olympic Association-constituted ad-hoc committee led by Bhupender Singh Bajwa.

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