"Come Forward, Tell Us": PT Usha, Indian Olympic Association Chief, Backs Wrestlers Amid #MeToo Protest

“Come Forward, Tell Us”: PT Usha, Indian Olympic Association Chief, Backs Wrestlers Amid #MeToo Protest

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president PT Usha on Thursday said she is “deeply concerned and disturbed” by the sexual harassment allegations by renowned wrestlers against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, saying the national Olympic body will do everything possible to safeguard the interest of the country’s women athletes. Celebrated Indian wrestlers, including Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik besides Vinesh Phogat and others are staging a sit-in protest for the last two days at Jantar Mantar here against the WFI president, accusing him of sexual exploitation and intimidation and have demanded that the federation be disbanded.

“As IOA President, I’ve been discussing the current matter of wrestlers with the members and for all of us the welfare and well being of the athletes is the top most priority of IOA. We request athletes to come forward and voice their concerns with us. We will ensure a complete investigation to ensure justice. We also have decided to form a special committee to deal with such situations that may arise in the future, for swifter action,” Usha said in a statement issued by the Indian Olympic Association.

On Thursday, a team of wrestlers, including Bajrang, Vinesh, Anshu Malik, Sakshi and her husband Satyawrat Kadiyan, met with the government officials and discussed their issues with Sports Secretary Sujata Chaturvedi, Director General SAI Sandip Pradhan and Joint Secretary (Sports) Kunal.

During the one-hour meeting, the wrestlers were asked to end their protest and assured that their grievances will be addressed. However, the wresters wanted a concrete and immediate action and decided to continue their protest unless the WFI president is removed and the national federation is disbanded along with all the state wrestling associations in the country.

Usha said she has full faith in the government and has urged all the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to cooperate in this matter. “Though this entire episode is a matter of great concern, I feel extremely assured by the quick response of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, who have sought an explanation from the concerned federation within the next 72 hours.

“I also have full faith in the Government of India, who I am sure will take the correct step in the right direction in this regard. However, as the IOA President, I sincerely hope the athletes, under no circumstances, are denied their rights,” she said.

“The IOA also urges all the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to fully cooperate with all fact-finding agencies in the interest of Indian sports. The IOA will also do everything to safeguard the interests of women athletes,” Usha added.

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