Indian Olympic Association (IAO) secretary general Rajeev Mehta on Friday warned against rushing athletes into training amid the rising COVID-19 cases, saying a wrong move at this point can have a bearing on their Olympics preparation. Mehta expressed his vehement opposition after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Thursday released the Sports Ministry-approved SOP for athletes to follow while training amid the pandemic, which has claimed more than 3,500 lives in the country so far.
“God forbid by any chance if an athlete tests positive who will be responsible for that? The unfortunate athlete will suffer and it may affect his or her Olympic preparation,” Mehta told PTI. He said the athletes should not be be forced the resume training.
The office-bearer added, “It is my personal view that the athletes should not be rushed to outdoor training now. Cases are increasing and likely to continue increasing in June also. It has not peaked yet. “Athletes are just like our children and so it is my advice to them. My views are not against anybody. But it is up to the athletes to start training or not.”
The SAI’s SOP came after the home ministry allowed the opening of sports complexes and stadia in its guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown, which has been extended till May 31. But there has been no clarity on when the training will resume. The issue of resumption has again brought to the fore the growing fissure within the country’s top sports body, with IOA president Narinder Batra deciding to take over much of the secretary general’s responsibilities in what appeared to be an attempt to sideline his deputy.
In a mail to Mehta, Batra said, “I have decided to take over/divide much of your workload and will be doing the needful in days to come and since I am Delhi based and few other people who are regularly coming to Delhi will now have to share the divided responsibilities/burden.
“Your very important advice will always be sought. By doing the above you will be able to spend more quality time with your family in Nainital and also attend to your business which also is in Uttrakhand.” In his reply, Mehta wrote, “I also thank you for appreciating that I’ve been working tirelessly for the IOA for the last couple of years. I may add that promoting sports and serving sports has been my mission and I have dedicated my life to it.
“My family appreciates my commitment and is supportive of my endeavours and will like to see me doing more for sports by stationing myself in Delhi and discharging my responsibilities as Secretary-General of IOA.” Mehta added that Batra “should have contested as Secretary-General of IOA” if he is so willing to take over his responsibilities.
“If you had such desires of doing day to day affairs, I would have stepped down from office in 2017 and you should have contested as Secretary-General of IOA.”