Respite for Indian Wrestling as UWW lifts ban on WFI


In what comes as a big relief for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the United World Wrestling (UWW) on Tuesday lifted the suspension imposed on the national federation on August 23 last year with immediate effect. The decision by the world body means Indian wrestlers can now compete under the country’s flag in events being organized by the UWW.

This decision also came at the right time as there was uncertainty regarding the Indian wrestlers’ participation in the Paris Olympics under the Olympic flag. But now, Indians can proudly don the tricolor for the mega event.

The decision though created a bit of confusion domestically on how the Wrestling operations go in the country as the Sports Ministry suspended the newly elected WFI and appointed an ad hoc committee to oversee the Wrestling affairs. Both parties are waiting for further clarification in this matter.

UWW lifts suspension on WFI

UWW lifted the ban subject to several conditions. UWW advised WFI to conduct the elections again, in which only former athletes must take part and also sought a written statement from the federation to give a fair chance to the wrestlers who protested against the former President.

“The UWW Bureau met on February 9 to review the suspension among other topics and considering all the elements and information, it decided to lift the suspension under the following conditions: The WFI has to re-convene the elections of its Athletes’ Commission. The candidates for this commission shall be active athletes or retired for no longer than four years. The voters shall be exclusively athletes. These elections shall take place during trials or any senior national championships where this operation can take place, but no later than July 1, 2024,” read a UWW statement.

“The WFI has to immediately provide UWW with written guarantees that all wrestlers will be considered for participation without any discrimination in all WFI events, in particular trials for the Olympic Games and any other major national and international events. This non-discrimination includes the three athletes who protested against alleged wrongdoings by the former President.”

Sanjay responds to UWW’s decision

Just hours after the announcement from UWW, the suspended WFI President, Sanjay Singh responded to the UWW decision and said he would personally call the three wrestlers and invite them to participate in the trials for the Olympic qualification tournament to be held in April.

Brij Bhushan Singh and Sanjay Singh

Speaking on the conditions laid down by the UWW, the WFI chief said, “No one would be stopped from participating in the selection trials. Everyone, whether they participated in the Pune nationals or Jaipur nationals, will be allowed to compete. We are hopeful the ministry will now allow us to function after the UWW’s decision.”

The trio of Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik was the face of the protest that erupted in January last year. The wrestlers accused Brij Bhushan, a BJP member of parliament, of sexual harassment and other wrongdoings including misappropriation of funds. A legal case is pending in court against Brij Bhushan and others in this regard.

While Sakshi announced her retirement after Sanjay was appointed the president, Vinesh recently won a gold medal at the National Championship in her first tournament in more than a year. Bajrang is currently in Russia preparing for the trials.

Ad-hoc committee yet to respond to UWW’s decision

Even as the UWW made its decision public, the sports ministry and ad-hoc panel headed by Bhupender Singh Bajwa refrained from commenting on it. Incidentally, national camps announced by the ad-hoc panel began a couple of days ago at SAI centers in Patiala and Sonepat.

Bhupinder Singh Bajwa, chairman of ad hoc committee. Source: PTI

The SAI and ad-hoc body didn’t respond to queries sent to them in this regard. The panel also announced to hold selection trials for Olympic qualifiers on March 10-11. It also announced to organize U-15 and U-20 national championships.

Also Read: How Pickleball is gaining popularity in India?