Indian athletes were barred from worlds despite WMA ‘resolution’
Here’s my quickie Q&A with Dr. Mehta on the situation (sent before worlds):
Masterstrack.com: How was this resolved? Who took part in these talks?
Dr. Rohinton Mehta: Actually nothing is resolved. It was only a temporary truce (only for the purpose of the Asian Meet in Kuala Lumpur). VAFI (Gerald Dâ€™souza) approached AMA (Hari Chandra and others) and represented that VAFI had over 100 athletes who could participate in the Asian meet. AMA asked all athletes of VAFI and MAFI to run under the consolidated banner of â€śINDIA,â€ť but the entries being routed through MAFI.
Given the scenario, there was no major harassment by MAFI (though MAFI brought in the uniforms for the VAFI Indian contingent AFTER the march past. Donâ€™t know whether it was deliberate or plain/usual apathy/unprofessionalism). The VAFI athletes protested and there was chaos and ultimately they participated in the march past without the national uniform!
I was not present as I came in a day late (due to work commitments) and also because my only event (I only do 400 hurdles) was on the second-last day. Anyways, there is no lasting resolution. Even today, there are two federations and a lot of bickering and mud-slinging. In fact, there will be two separate nationals (of VAFI & MAFI), and the VAFI nationals are slated for 4th August at Pondicherry (India).
The problems will again surface at the time of AMA/WMA meets. The only solution is to do away with the routing of the entries through the national federations â€” at least for India. That way, the athletes will not be held to ransom and we can concentrate on our running and they can fight on and on happily ever after!!
Which group now is the recognized WMA affiliate?
As per my knowledge, the MAFI (led by David Premnath) continues to be the WMA affiliate, despite the VAFI also having within their fold about 1600 athletes (masters).
Can any Indian athlete compete now in WMA world meets? And if not, what are the remaining problems?
They can compete only if MAFI allows them to. The problem is entries have to be routed via / though / accredited by MAFI before reaching WMA / AMA. THIS IS THE PROBLEM.
If WMA / AMA start accepting entries directly (like the World Masters Games, Oceania Masters, Pan-Pacific Masters Games, Brunei Open, etc.) from Indian athletes, then the coercive power, corrupt rent and arm-twisting will end once and for all.
The issues are many. It is common knowledge that for every 10 air tickets and hotel rooms booked by the Federation, they get 1 free ticket and so there is arm-twisting that all air/hotel bookings should be compulsorily booked / routed through the Federation.
Now imagine with 190 athletes slated to go to Sacramento, they got 19 free tickets and hotel rooms! Not only the Federation officials but their families also travel!
Is the Indian team for Sacramento the strongest possible?
No, it is not. But it is a large contingent (about 190 athletes). However, I have heard that many good athletes are not going for a variety of reasons: politics, cost, work, commitments, non-participation in National / Asian meet, etc. I have also been given to understand that large number of very sub-standard (and at times non-athletes) are also going as they have received â€śselectionâ€ť letters! More importantly, I have reliably learnt that the US Visa Office has denied Visas (and rightly so!) to quite a few of those so called â€śathletes.â€ť
This is because the Visa authorities believe that they will vanish / immigrate. There have been many such past instances.
What are your plans for Sacramento?
I am not competing at Sacramento due to my professional work commitments. I was â€śselectedâ€ť and was given a letter by MAFI on the basis of my silver medal at the Asians in Kuala Lumpur. Paradoxically, I am in good nick and training well, but I just donâ€™t have the time to take 15 days off my professional work schedule (I am a lawyer with one of Indiaâ€™s largest FMCG majors).