cwg contingent

Sindhu mom, Saina dad, Heena’s husband axed

NEW DELHI:The Sports Ministry has dropped 21 names from the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) list of non-athletes as part of the contingent for next month’s Commonwealth Games.

Sindhu mom, Saina dad, Heena’s husband axed

Shooter Heena Sidhu with husband Ronak Pandit

Vinayak Padmadeo

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, march 22

The Sports Ministry has dropped 21 names from the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) list of non-athletes as part of the contingent for next month’s Commonwealth Games.

PV Sindhu’s mother Vijaya Pusarla, Saina Nehwal’s father Harvir Singh and shooter Heena Sidhu’s husband Ronak Pandit, who is the High Performance Director of the Indian pistol and rifle team, are among those who have been dropped from IOA’s list.

Pandit’s exclusion can raise a few issues for the Indian shooting team as the gun permit issued by the Commonwealth Games organisers has been issued in his name because he had been designated as the team manager.

The permit is issued by the hosts for visiting shooters to bring weapons into the country and their safe passage from the airport to the armoury, which is usually situated at the range. The permit is required to both bring in and take out the weapons for the Games. Pandit’s absence may cause a few headaches to the Indian team.

But this isn’t the first time that Pandit has been snubbed by the Sports Ministry. Right from the 2012 London Olympics, Pandit and Heena have had to face disappointments when it came to getting government funding. At the London Olympics, they were an unknown quantity; the money sanctioned to them came after the Games.  

The duo was given a similar snub before the 2016 Rio Olympics as Ministry officials objected to Pandit being designated as Heena’s coach.

Ronak’s appointment as the High Performance Director of the Indian rifle and pistol team was also blocked by the Ministry, and the national shooting association (NRAI) then hired him as an advisor.

Medical issues

Also removed from IOA’s list was Dr Arun K Mendiratta, appointed the Chief Medical Officer of the contingent. As head of the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) medical committee during last year’s Asian Athletics Championships, he had criticised NADA’s sample collection kit, saying it wasn’t tamper-proof .

Sports Ministry sources said he was dropped due to those comments. “How can you even think that we will spend government’s money on someone like him!” a source said.

Another name that was dropped is that of physiotherapist Hema Valecha. “What’s so good about this particular physio? They keep sending her name all the time,” the Sports Ministry source reasoned.

Batra targets Ministry

Meanwhile, IOA president Narinder Dhruv Batra criticised the Sports Ministry for raising the issue of family members travelling as part of the contingent. Batra pointedly said the Ministry should disclose the names of its officials who will be in Gold Coast.

“There is a procedure — 222 athletes, 74 officials are permitted as per the Commonwealth rules,” Batra said. “Extra officials are the requirement of every team. A badminton player needs a coach, physio and masseur... These are the requirements. Extra officials are not going at government cost. I don’t know why the government is making so much noise if the federations are paying for them.”

“If an athlete is taking his/her parents as manager or mentor, I’m sorry, I have no authority to stop them,” he added. “I’ll give you an example. At the Incheon Asian Games, Sarita Devi’s issue (when she protested her defeat) created a lot of problem. The government at that time hadn’t allowed the manager to go with the team. It is the manager who is authorised to lodge a protest. In Sarita’s case, it was the chief coach who was authorised, but he had to go for Mary Kom’s bout. Sarita didn’t have any money to lodge the protest, and she had to borrow $100 from a journalist. I don’t know why the government is creating the same situation.”

“Why is the physio being denied, why is the doctor being denied?” he added. “If the physician’s name is struck off and an athlete falls ill, what will we do?” he continued. “People will blame IOA. We are sending two doctors, one orthopaedic and one physician. If physician is dropped, I have no justification for that. If you think it’s war-path with the Ministry, let it be.”

Signs of peace

However, in a late evening post on social media, Batra suggested all was not lost after a telephone conversation with Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. “The required officials beyond the number of 74 going with the participating teams as part of the Indian contingent have been requested by me to be cleared at no cost to the government,” he wrote. “I am personally thankful to the honourable minister for his assurance to review and relook at clearing of required extra officials at no cost to the government.”

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