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by Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief
ĎIndian Sports cannot flourish till federations are freed from fiefdomsí
ó Ajay Maken , Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs

When Ajay Maken was made Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs with independent charge this January, he was entrusted with the unenviable task of cleaning up the mess caused by the Commonwealth Games. Hardly had he settled down when the doping scandal broke out. Many of Indiaís top athletes who were to participate in the 2012 Olympics failed tests to check if they had used banned performance-enhancing drugs. Maken, 46, brings a youthful energy to the job which he would need in full measure to bring the much-needed reform to pull Indian sports out of the swamp of scandal and shame that it is bogged down in. He spoke exclusively to Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa at his Delhi office about how he is going about handling the many challenges. Excerpts:

Ajay Maken , Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs
We are bringing a National Sports Development Bill in the coming session of Parliament to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of these sports federations. These sports federations will be treated as public bodies and will be within the jurisdiction of the Right to Information Act so that anybody can seek any information about their functioning

The recent doping scandal involving top athletes has brought shame to the country. What action have you taken so far?

We have set up the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee to look into how it happened, whether whatever happened is something that is institutional, whether there is connivance at higher levels and how to tackle it. Once his report is ready, we would act on it. Meanwhile, we are taking some measures to handle the problem.

Such as..

For example, the athletes said that they got food supplements from outside the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre including imported ginseng from China. I wondered why they should do that especially since we give them Rs 650 daily for meals that includes Rs 250 for purchasing food supplements. I found out that the food supplements that SAI centre provides are only those that are recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) while many coaches were recommending something else. These coaches were in touch with others across the world and had drawn up their own list. So I told the coaches to make a single list that includes both NIN and their own recommendations and SAI should purchase these supplements from good credible companies. These supplements should be checked batch-wise for adulteration and to ensure that it provides the requisite strength and concentration recommended and do not contain banned drugs.

What about stricter regulation?

I have asked the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) to increase the frequency of its raids which earlier was very low. I have told them to keep changing the personnel doing the tests to avoid an unhealthy nexus from building up. NADA has also spoken to Customs authorities to check foreign coaches who may import banned substances when they come in.

We do not have adequate coaches in our country. You will be surprised that from 1980 onwards till 2007 only 172 coaches have passed the post graduate degree being offered by (NIS), Patiala

What action have you taken against officials involved in the doping of athletes?

We have terminated the contract of a foreign coach and an Indian coach apart from suspending another. We have removed the doctor with SAI and the hostel warden who were supposed to check what substances the athletes were taking. We have so far taken action against seven officials. Once the Justice Mudgal report is out, we will take further action.

What about action against the athletes who failed the doping tests?

These athletes have to appear before the disciplinary panel headed by a retired High Court Judge. Guilty athletes can face a ban on participation for up to two years.

Isnít there an urgent need to overhaul the entire training system?

Yes, the institutional mechanisms need to be strengthened. We do not have adequate coaches in our country. You will be surprised that from 1980 onwards till 2007 only 172 coaches have passed the post graduate degree being offered by the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala. We have 29 foreign coaches whom we pay between Rs 3-4 lakh every month because we do not have sufficient number of qualified coaches in our country. To improve things we have decided that NIS, Patiala, will be taken away from SAI and would be made an autonomous institution just like AIIMS through an Act of Parliament. Since it may take several months to do that, in the meantime NIS will be governed by an autonomous society that would be independent of SAI.

How will separating NIS from SAI help?

I have asked the National Anti-Doping Agency to increase the frequency of its raids. I have told them to keep changing the personnel doing the tests to avoid an unhealthy nexus from building up 

SAI is currently doing too many things. Apart from administering institutions to produce coaches, sports scientists and PE teachers, SAI also builds, maintains and utilises stadia for the country, implements schemes for achieving excellence in sports and acts as an interface with national federations concerned with sports. Coaching, instead of being its first priority, is now among its last. Because of the structure, NIS, Patiala, is headed by a joint secretary level officer. Hiring an eminent and senior person to head it will ensure that we end the mediocrity in faculty and get the best for the premier training institution. It could also link up with international institutions to train staff in best practices. We should make the NIS the best in the world and this is possible only if we make it an autonomous body.

What are the other reforms needed?

The other thing is to have better sports sciences in our country. So we want to set up a National Institute of Sports Sciences. It will have many branches like sports biomechanics, sports biochemistry, sports psychology, sports physiology, sports medicine, sports nutrition and general sports training. It will be manned by the best professionals and is likely to be located in Delhi. Once we have a sports sciences institute and a good coaching institute, our reliance on foreign coaches will come to an end.

But you would still need to check problems like drugs?

We are strengthening NADA. We are increasing the number of disciplinary panels to speed up investigations. There has been a demand from certain quarters that NADA should be independent from government because the DG of NADA is a joint secretary level officer and there was a conflict of interest as he was also in charge of preparing athletes for the Commonwealth Games. I am all for independence of NADA but because it is still in its formative years, having been started just two years ago, we would like to strengthen the culture of the organisation and then give it autonomy gradually.

Despite having a billion strong population, why donít we produce world-class athletes?

The Prime Minister has made it clear that exemplary punishment would be given to those found guilty in the cwg scam. the way things are moving, it is clear no guilty person will be spared

As mentioned earlier, apart from poor quality of coaches we donít have an institute of sports sciences. Both are necessary to build a good, sporting nation. It is also disturbing that a large number of sports federations in our country are run like the fiefdom of powerful persons. These powerful persons do not want to free the sports federations from their clutches. Unless and until these federations are taken out of the control of these powerful vested interests, our sports cannot flourish. Corporate houses are reluctant to fund existing sports bodies as they there is no transparency in the functioning of these bodies.

What can you do to break the Ďfiefdomí mentality in sports federations?

We are bringing a National Sports Development Bill in the coming session of Parliament to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of these sports federations. These sports federations will be treated as public bodies and will be within the jurisdiction of the Right to Information Act so that anybody can seek any information about their functioning. There will be an age limit bar for the office-bearers of these bodies and they will have to put information about their assets, accounts, etc, on their websites. With this the corporate houses will also start giving fund for the development of the sports.

You have a running battle with the Indian Olympic Association and other sporting federations over the new Bill especially the clause defining how long office-bearers can hold their posts?

Yes, they claim that it is in violation of the Olympic Charter. But even in the International Olympic Committee, there is an age limit of 70 years and a person can serve a maximum of eight years,with two terms of four-years each, for office-bearers and no more than 12 years, with three terms of four years each, for the President. So, we are trying to follow international and universal yardsticks for our sports bodies, including IOA, for good governance and transparency. Also, we are trying hard that 25 per cent of the executive members of a sports federation should be sportspersons from the concerned sports. People are also talking about a public authority like the Loyayukta to look into all types of grievances of the sports-lovers and players. We are working on having an ombudsman or Lokayukta for sports which will work as a regulator for transparency and honest running of these sports federations.

What about your own tribe of politicians which seem to dominate sports federations?

I am not against any minister, politician, professional or a sportsperson being office-bearers. The government cannot interfere in this regard. But, there should be transparency and good governance of these federations by the officer-bearers. With the proposed norms, which include posting of accounts on the websites, expenditure incurred on the trips of office-bearers and sportspersons in India and abroad, age bar, fixed tenures and bringing them under the jurisdiction of the RTE, there will be more transparency and more professionalism which will certainly strengthen our sports bodies as well as our sports. We have introduced a new clause that if a government officer wants to become an office-bearer of any sports body, he will have to seek permission from the government. I am adding a new embargo on sports ministers that after relinquishing the charge of the ministry, they will not be eligible to become office-bearers of any sports federation/body for at least five years.

The stench over the Commonwealth Games still remains. What are you doing to clean up things?

The Commonwealth Games was a mixture of good and bad. As regards the good, we have created world class infrastructure in terms of stadia. And we had the most successful Commonwealth Games both in terms of number of sportspersons and also in terms of total number of countries which participated and we have been appreciated by them for running it well. There were controversies and in these controversies all the good things took a back stage. There are two reasons why everything went wrong. The first thing was why was Suresh Kalmadi, the President of IOA, appointed as the Chairman of the Organising Committee making him all powerful? After scanning the files and reading the Shunglu Committee Report I was surprised that in the Host City Contract signed by the Government of India with the Commonwealth Federation in November 2003 it was decided that the Games would be organised by 
an Organising Committee headed by the IOA President. So its fate was sealed. This is something which in the first place should have been avoided by the Indian Government at that time. It should have directly taken charge of the organisation rather than giving it to an Organising Committee.

You had mentioned two flaws, what was the other?

The second flaw was that the Host City Contract should have been passed by the Delhi cabinet as the city was organising the Games. Instead it was passed by the Union Government and signed by the Secretary to the Government of India. For the 2012 Olympic Games, the London Host City Contract is not signed by a Secretary of the UK Government but by a London city representative. This ensures that that the local city administration would be accountable. But the reason why the NDA led Central government didnít want to allow Delhi to sign it was because the state government was ruled by the Congress and they didnít want it to get any credit. The BJP cannot absolve itself of blame because the IOA committee that elected Kalmadi as President had many members from its party including Vijay Kumar Malhotra. As a result the Central government was left with no role and went to the extent of giving a blank cheque to the Organising Committee that any short falls in organising the games would be borne by the government.

What action is being taken against those guilty in the CWG scam?

The Prime Minister appointed the Shunglu Committee and it has given its report.† Already 14 cases have been registered by the CBI against those concerned. Suresh Kalmadi is behind bars and the CBI is actively conducting the inquiry. The CVC is also probing the matter. The CAG has already submitted all the reports which would be placed before Parliament. The Prime Minister has made it clear that exemplary punishment would be given to those found guilty. Already the way things are moving, no one can complain that the Prime Minister and Government has not done anything and it is clear that no guilty person will be spared.

What action has been taken so far on the Shunglu Committee report?

The Shunglu Committee has submitted all its six reports. The first report was on the Host Broadcasters and action has been taken against those concerned. The second report deals with the Commonwealth Games village for which the Home Ministry was asked to submit reports after seeking the details from Delhi Development Authority and other organisations. The third report deals with the infrastructure built by Delhi Government. So for that also the Home Ministry has sought replies from the Delhi Government before submitting its report. Report number 4, 5 and 6 concerns the Sports Ministry.† Report number 4 is about the infrastructure of the stadia which we have in Delhi. Number 5 is about the Organising Committee and number 6 deals with the entire management of the CWG and the way forward. And how we can ensure that it does not happen again.† † We are examining the three reports before taking action.

The Tribune carried a report that the utilisation of the massive infrastructure built for the CWG games has been poor.

I donít agree that it has been poor. We have thrown open the stadia for the public for a nominal fee and also given them out on hire to hold sporting events. We have now decided to convert the stadia into five national academies. We are developing these stadia into national academies for swimming, cycling, basketball, football and athletics and will have hostel facilities to house over 100 of our brightest stars in each of them. But yes, much more needs to be done to utilise them and we will be doing it in the coming months.

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