WMA president won’t get involved in India’s track Civil War

In October, I wrote how athletes from India embarrassed themselves at Lahti worlds. One reason was a spat between rival masters track federations — MAFI vs. VAFI. In November and December, several Indian masters posted comments, confirming this civil war and alleging that top-notch masters were barred (by MAFI) from competing at Lahti. Dr. Rohinton Mehta, a corporate lawyer and M45 hurdler, wrote: “Last month, I won the World Masters Games 400 mtrs hurdles GOLD with a timing of 64.44 secs. What Gerald D’Souza has said is indeed correct. Because of the fight between the MAFI and the VAFI, the athletes, including me, have suffered. I was unable to represent my country at the Asian Masters . . . and the World Masters in Lahti.”

Dr. Gurmeet Singh, an associate professor at Panjab University and secretary of Candigarh masters, added:

Sir Jerry is right. We suffer lots because of those people who involve in MAFI, as they aren’t promoting athletics but they earn money from it and make it their business (to) deceive innocent veteran athletes who want to participate in international competitions and under the name of MAFI they sent non-athletes abroad and earn huge money. The case still pending in Bangalore high court.

Now international masters athletics federation can do something for the welfare of masters athletes in India and ask MAFI secratary to resign as lots of resentment against him and his team are going on and Jerry and his team (are) doing well and lots of good athletes are attached (to) VAFI and participating in national competitions organised by VAFI.

I must request WMA and AMA to please look (into) this matter seriously, otherwise a day come when athletes will not participate or less participation will be there. Mr. Ken you must send this msg. to other masters athletics bodies.

Dr. Rohinton Mehta’s long comment concluded with this blast:

(MAFI has the) power to arm twist and coerce athletes with false information on International Meets (e.g. athletes are told that to be able to represent India you need to come in the top two in India — this is a complete falsehood. The AMA is very clear that there is nothing like a qualification standard and any athlete has the right to compete, and not merely two from each country. This is evident from the AMA results which will show that in most events there are 5-6 competitors from a particular country. In fact, I’ve observed this myself having run two Asians — in Bangkok and Bangalore).

I am not for a moment taking sides or stating that either VAFI or MAFI are better than the other but the infighting has cost Masters Athletics in India dearly. Athletes have been coerced not to run in the meets organised by the rival Federation.

What right does any one have to tell me or any other Indian athlete which athletic meet I can compete in? The Federation does NOTHING for us.

The Federation exists because of the athletes. The Indian athletes have performed admirably not because of the Federations but despite them and their mediocrity. We athletes run on our own legs and on the dint of hard work that we have put in without any appreciation, help, motivation from the Federation.

It is high time that this cheap squabbling ends, as the only casualty is Indian athletics. In my opinion, if the two warring factions decide not to bury the hatchet and come to a negotiated compromise solution, then it would be much better if the Asian Masters Association and the WMA recognise either both Indian Federations or allow Indian Athletes from either Federation to compete in AMA and WMA competitions.

After all, the AMA and WMA have propogation of Masters Athletics at the core of their heart and anything, anyone or any entity that stifles and/or makes difficult participation of Master athletes in Masters Meet must be immediately addressed.

Once the two warring Federations realise that they have no control over the athletes, they will immediately seek a solution themselves. This will be in the overall benefit of Indian Masters Athletics.

Stalwarts like you must use all your powers — personal, administrative, political to ensure that this is achieved. Enough is Enough. This crazy fight must end and sooner rather than later.

Armed with this dramatic testimony, I wrote to Stan Perkins, president of World Masters Athletics, asking: “When will you crack down on India’s masters athletics federation? It’s keeping some athletes from competing in WMA meets.” And I shared the link to the comments.

Stan replied yesterday:

There has been no correspondence forwarded to WMA in regard to this matter. In addition, the Regional Delegate for Asia, Hari Chandra, has not raised any issue with the Council in recent times on this matter. Individuals may make whatever comment they wish but it is not for WMA to become involved at that level.

Hari Chandra

So now what?

Well, we still have to learn the resolution of the Bangalore court case mentioned by Gurmeet. We also need to hear from Hari Chandra of Singapore, a pioneering masters leader and Asia’s delegate on the WMA Council. But most of all, athletes themselves need to speak up and demand action from WMA and AMA.
WMA is leaving money on the table — entry fees from the world’s second-biggest country — when it doesn’t make it possible for all Indian athletes to compete at worlds. 
Besides, there’s a little thing called the WMA Constitution, which declares: “All masters/veterans shall be eligible to compete in any masters athletics competition. No master/veteran shall be refused entry on ground of race, religion, politics, nationality or place of residence.”

Moreover, says the constitution: “Only one organisation in each country may be an Affiliate.”

If an affiliate such as MAFI is found to be disenfranchising its members, it can be kicked out of WMA under this provision: “An Affiliate may be expelled only by the General Assembly. . . . The Council has the right to suspend an Affiliate temporarily with the obligation to account for the question to the next General Assembly where a final decision must be taken.”
What happens if VAFI applies to be the WMA affiliate from India?  
There’s an app for that, too!
The WMA bylaws say:

If (an) NGB makes an application for affiliation in a country where there is an existing WMA Affiliate, the Council shall make a recommendation to the applicant. If the recommendation to the applicant is not accepted, a special Commission consisting of an equal number of representatives from the IAAF and WMA shall be established to consider the matter and make a recommendation to the applicant to be sent through the IAAF Secretariat. If the recommendation is still not accepted, the Commission shall present a report to the IAAF Council, submitting its considerations and recommendations. The final decision shall be made by the WMA Council.

Golly gee. If ethical considerations aren’t enough to fix this mess, consider the clout of 1.17 billion people, many of whom are over 35 and athletic. 

Gotta get these folks into the mix.
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January 4, 2010

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