NHRC Communications to SAI, Sports Ministry-Sport News, Firstpost

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which took note of the matter suo motu, asked the Secretary of the Ministry and the Director-General of the SAI for a detailed report.

Case of harassment by cyclists: NHRC communications to SAI, Department of Sport

File photo of RK Sharma with Cyclist Essow Albums. Instagram/UCI

New Delhi: The NHRC has issued notices to the Union’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) days after a female cyclist accused the cycling head coach of “inappropriate conduct” during a training camp in Slovenia, according to a statement on Friday.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which took note of the matter suo motu, asked the Secretary of the Ministry and the Director-General of the SAI for a detailed report.

“It is strange to know that instead of reining in the coach, the Indian Sport Authority reportedly decided to bring the victim back to India, thereby depriving her of the training abroad for which she had been selected,” the rights body said in the statement.

It said the victim’s right to dignity was allegedly violated, considering that a coach and an athlete have a fiduciary relationship where a coach has the confidence to look after the welfare and welfare of the athlete.

The commission has determined that if the matter is true, it constitutes a human rights violation of the victim athlete.

According to the SAI, the applicant was reportedly taken back to India immediately in the middle of her training to ensure her safety. The SAI found the allegation prima facie to be true, it said.

The commission sought to know the physical and mental health of the victim within four weeks and, if necessary, to take action against the officer responsible, including the coach concerned. The commission also wants to know if it has been offered any specialized advice by the authorities, it said.

The SAI on Wednesday terminated the cycling head coach’s contract after a preliminary investigation found him guilty of “inappropriate behavior” towards the cyclist during the training camp in Slovenia.

The SAI made the decision hours after deciding to recall the entire Indian contingent from the European nation where the cyclists had gone for a training and competition trip.

The victim, who reportedly feared for her life at the alleged harassment and asked to return home, has already been brought into the country to keep an eye on her safety.

In publishing the notices, the NHRC also noted that the Government of India has had a sincere focus on maximizing women’s participation in all areas, including sports, arts and culture. Various guidelines have been issued to ensure the safety of female athletes during their training and sporting activities.

The Commission also believes that if the allegations made in the report are true and the authorities do not take action against such incidents in the future for fear that they could also be called back in the middle of the training, it said.

The issue also falls within the scope of the Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Remedy) Act 2013, which categorically defines in Section 2(o)(iv) that the workplace includes all sports institutes, stadiums and sports complexes or Venue for competitions or games, whether used for residential purposes or not for training, sports or other related activities. The SAI is therefore also obliged to have the matter investigated in accordance with the provisions of the law, she added.

According to media reports, the female victim was part of the Indian team preparing in Slovenia for the Asian Cup, which is scheduled to take place in New Delhi from June 18-22.

“The coach allegedly tried to force her towards him and asked her to come and sleep with him, threatening to destroy her career if he didn’t comply with his demands,” the statement said.

Reportedly, unable to tolerate the coach’s advances and explicit sexual overtones, the victim spoke to the CEO of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), who booked her return ticket for June 3, 2022. The victim has mentioned in her complaint that the coach has destroyed her mentally and emotionally which is now affecting her athletic performance.

She has reportedly tried to be as strict as possible against the coach, not only to ensure her safety but also the safety of everyone else, especially the female athletes, the statement said.

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