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Former athletes urge illegal IOA officials to quit

New Delhi: A group of former athletes has urged illegal office-bearers of the Indian Olympic Association to quit for the sake of the country after the International Olympic Committee declared last month's elections "null and void".

"We have decided not to cooperate with you and your collaborators who claim to be office-bearers of the IOA through an illegal election," the group of 20 athletes wrote in their letter to the executive committee headed by Abhay Singh Chautala. "In the interest of Indian sports please leave the IOA office as directed by the IOC."

The athletes, all of whom have received national awards from the government, wrote the letter after they were asked to forward details of their achievements and photographs to the illegal body.

The IOC last month suspended the IOA for not following the Olympic charter in its elections and called for fresh elections before it lifts the ban.

Representational Image. Reuters

"We strongly believe that the IOC has taken the right decision," read the letter from the former athletes, initiated by independent body Clean Sports India.

"The IOA has been suspended by the IOC and it is an illegal body. Why should all the award winners give legitimacy to an IOA headed by Abhay Singh Chautala (president) and Lalit Bhanot (secretary-general)?"

Female athlete Ashwini Nachappa, field hockey player Ashish Ballal and female field hockey player Suraj Lata Devi are among the 20 athletes to have backed the latest CSI initiative.

The CSI, headed by former field hockey captain Pargat Singh, had last year sent a letter to the IOC signed by some 400 athletes, apprising them of poor governance and the presence of tainted officials in the IOA.

The IOC had asked the IOA to adhere to its own constitution but the IOA went ahead with the election process, citing a Delhi High Court order that said the polls should be in line with the government sports code.

Also, the IOC's ethics commission had advised that tainted officials shouldn't hold administrative posts, but Bhanot was declared elected unopposed despite having been earlier jailed along with former IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi for corruption cases related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Kalmadi, who headed the IOA for 16 years, decided not to seek re-election but backed Chautala and Bhanot.

AP