Indian Olympic Association boss N Ramachandran addressed the issue of boxer Sarita Devi, saying her Asian Games reaction was unprecedented. Sarita had refused her bronze medal in Incheon following a controversial bout that was awarded in favour of her South Korean opponent Jina Park. Sarita was banned by the international boxing federation for her protest. (Sarita bout was fixed, her husband cries foul)
In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Ramachandran opened up about the issue, saying, "No athlete has ever behaved like Sarita Devi. The athlete in question has had 14 years in boxing."
"It is natural for athletes to breakdown under certain circumstances. To be honest, Sarita's behaviour doesn't do good for IOA. With great difficulty we are back in the International fold," he said.
"As far as the IOA is concerned, we have to protect our athletes from any injustice. However, a referee's decision cannot be challenged. Sarita apologised for her behaviour and IOA will get the issue solved very soon," he added.
Ramachandran defended the absence of Olympic Association officials at Incheon when the controversial bout took place, saying,"IOA cannot be omnipresent. We had only three officials from IOA in Incheon and they cannot be in every place at the same time. We participated in 36 disciplines, how do you expect an IOA official to be present everywhere? IOA cannot anticipate each and every problem that can come up in every discipline."
"IOA followed the correct procedure in the Sarita's case," he added.
Shedding light on IOA's long-term plans, Ramachandran said, "IOA will function transparently and also set up grievance redressal system. We also intend to involve athletes in our committees."
Ramachandran also agreed with sports ministry's recent diktat on sports grants being alloted based on athletes' availability to represent India. This has come about after few of the tennis stars chose to ATP events over representing India in the Asian Games.