Why Usha should stand by the players, not drag them down
PT Usha is one of India’s greatest athletes, but on Thursday her greatness didn’t matter. Instead of her medals, the conversation shifted to her words – words that seemed to be spoken without sympathy; This reduced the opposition from India’s wrestlers to “not good for the sport”; who compared these wrestlers (Olympic medalists, no less) to a group with “no discipline”.
When Usha was named as the president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in December 2022, it was expected that the athlete-led federation would be better off than the previous temperament. Eventually, she became the first Olympian and international medalist to head the IOA in its 95-year history. And a player needs to know a player.
But Thursday’s comment by the former Mahan (who is now also a Rajya Sabha MP) that the protests are “tarnishing the image” of the country does not live up to those expectations.
Wrestlers have taken to the streets on two occasions in the last three months – first to complain against alleged sexual harassment and mental harassment by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and now to protest. Even after giving assurance several times, no action is being taken on their complaint.
The purpose of the first protest was to demand justice, and the second, to bring the issue back into the limelight as their cries went unheeded – although an inspection committee was formed, its report was not released. Has been; No FIR has been registered; And, he says, there has been no progress.
Here is a group of athletes attempting to wrest control of their sport from a politician who has reportedly and by many accounts treated it like a personal fiefdom. This is not indiscipline, but an urgent and clear demand for change.
Usha has been a sportsperson for long enough to understand the problems people often face in her profession, and as the IOA chief, the least one could have expected was to listen to them sympathetically. Instead of requiring procedure or the right way to deal with the matter or demanding the wrestlers “come to us”, Usha might have done better by stepping out of her newly occupied high chair and shrugging her shoulders. Side by side with them, if only to hear their side. Do not drag them for raising their voice.
Good for athletes who aren’t afraid to speak up — not just for the present, but for future generations of hopefuls. The wrestlers have taken a tough stand. Don’t dismiss them, listen to them. The allegations he has made are serious, and they deserve a transparent and thorough investigation at the very least.