In a significant blow to the Indian wrestling community, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has been suspended by the United World Wrestling (UWW), the global governing body for wrestling. The suspension comes as a consequence of the WFI’s failure to conduct timely elections, leading to a series of setbacks for the sport in the country.
As a result of the suspension, Indian wrestlers are now compelled to participate in the upcoming Olympic-qualifying World Championships as ‘neutral athletes’. The World Championships are slated to commence on September 16, and this decision will undoubtedly have an impact on the performance and morale of the Indian wrestling contingent.
The controversy surrounding the WFI has been brewing for the past few months, largely stemming from allegations of sexual harassment against its former chief, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Additionally, prominent Indian wrestlers have engaged in extensive protests, further exacerbating the turmoil within the federation. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had intervened by appointing an ad hoc committee in April to oversee the administration of the wrestling federation. This committee was entrusted with the task of organizing fresh elections within 45 days. However, the elections have been repeatedly delayed, ultimately prompting the UWW to take action.
UWW enables Action
In May, the UWW expressed “great concern” over the situation in India and issued a warning that the failure to meet the 45-day election deadline could result in the suspension of the WFI. The UWW’s statement also highlighted that a similar course of action had been taken earlier in reallocating the Asian Championship, which was originally planned to take place in New Delhi this year.
The suspension of the WFI comes as a major setback for Indian wrestling, which has been gaining prominence on the international stage in recent years. Wrestlers who have been training rigorously and aspiring to compete under the Indian flag now find themselves facing the prospect of performing as neutral athletes. This development not only affects their competitive standing but also dampens the spirit of the entire wrestling community in India.
With the World Championships only a few weeks away, Indian wrestlers are now tasked with adapting to this new reality and aiming to perform at their best despite the challenges posed by the suspension. As the wrestling fraternity watches the events unfold, questions linger about the future of the sport in India and the steps that need to be taken to address the underlying issues within the federation.