India’s gold run at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow has been ground into the dirt by two of its sports officials, one arrested for drunken driving and another on charges of alleged sexual assault.
Of the two separate incidents on Saturday, the drunken driving show starred Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, and the sexual assault charge featured wrestling referee Virender Malik, a Category I Federation Internationale des Luttes Associees (FILA) accredited wrestling referee who was not attached to the contingent. That Mehta occupies a top position in India’s sports officialdom only deepened the humiliation, contrasting starkly with the excellent performance of the nation’s athletes at Glasgow. Both Mehta and Malik will be produced before the Glasgow Sheriff Court on Monday.
As secretary general of the IOA, Mehta was an invitee of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). He has also taken his family members to the Games; unconfirmed reports said he tried to keep the bad news from them too. Malik was taken into custody, reportedly on charges of assaulting a staff member of the guest house where he was staying. The nature of the assault remained unclear though some reports said it was of a sexual nature.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed the arrests but refused to give details. “On August 2, a 49-year-old man was arrested following reports of an alleged assault at City Centre of Glasgow. On August 2, a 45-year-old man was arrested following reports of an alleged assault in the west of Glasgow,” said the spokeswoman. According to the amended IOA constitution, an official facing such charges will be suspended from the apex sports body.
Mehta may face disciplinary action within the body for his misconduct; his future will be decided when the IOA Ethics Commission addresses the case. IOA President N. Ramachandran told MAIL TODAY from Glasgow that the case will be handled with “utmost urgency”. “Things are still not very clear and tomorrow (Monday) the IOA will issue a press statement. We will wait for the court to decide and the issue will be dealt with utmost urgency,” he said.
“Whatever the constitution says we will go with that. It will be difficult for me to say anything on his suspension from the IOA but yes, the case will be decided keeping the IOA constitution in mind. All these decisions will be taken in the next few days, starting from Monday,” said Ramachandran, whose relations with Mehta have soured in the last couple of months. The two were at loggerheads recently over India’s bid for the 2019 Asian Games as well as over India’s return to world boxing. Mehta had openly accused Ramachandran of not supporting the Asian Games bid. Another official, who did not want to be named, said Mehta has been booked under at least three sections.
Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the actions of the two officials and said stern measures will be taken if the two Indians are proven guilty.
“The detailed information of the incident is not available with us right now. Our officials have been instructed to communicate with the High Commission and also the local police of Scotland. Whatever information is available with us, they will be provided in the court of law tomorrow and in the court if they (two officials) are proved wrong, law will take its own course,” the minister added.
Top ministry officials said the government has taken a strong view and is likely to push for Mehta’s removal. “It is a disgraceful act and the sports ministry will seek an explanation and it will be difficult to deal with someone in the IOA who has brought disrepute to the nation at such a big international stage,” said a ministry official.
Mehta is believed to be a close aide of former IOA officials Suresh Kalmadi and Lalit Bhanot while his proximity to Haryana leader Abhay Chautala- whose controversial election as IOA president had led to India’s suspension by the IOC in 2012-played a big role in his elevation to the position of IOA secretary general. In the absence of a suitable candidate in the controversy-marred IOA elections, Mehta was handpicked by top IOA brass and elected unopposed in February.
Mehta, a businessman from Uttarakhand, has had a meteoric rise in India’s sports administration despite the many allegations of varied wrongdoing that he has faced. From being chief of the Kho Kho Federation, Mehta’s trajectory in the IOA has been phenomenal.
Incidentally, Mehta is part of the five-member sexual harassment committee of Hockey India. Mehta wields great power in Uttarakhand sports administration. Along with wife Deepa, president of the Luge Federation of India, Mehta is accused of controlling most sports associations in the state. In 2002, Mehta hit the headlines when he allegedly transferred `12 lakh from the state Olympic association’s bank account to his own following which the state began a probe. Its findings are awaited. Incidentally, the Uttarakhand government had provided the state Olympic association a grant of `15 lakh just before Mehta’s alleged transfer took place. Among the other allegations that Mehta has fended off are that he sent state officials and political leaders on foreign junkets at IOA’s expense in order to clear his name from the alleged misappropriation of funds. Mehta has taken state sports minister Dinesh Aggarwal and the government’s sports secretary Ajay Pradyot to Glasgow. He had taken three other ministers and one bureaucrat from Uttarakhand- state finance minister Indira Hirdayesh, state sports minister Dinesh Aggarwal, state food and supply minister Pritam Singh and sports secretary Rakesh Sharma-to the London Olympics as well.
Most observers say that the state’s sports associations headed by Mehta and his family members are in pitiable condition.