He United World Struggle (UWW) met on February 9 to review the suspension of WFI and subsequently decided to lift the ban.
However, the UWW directed the national federation to provide written assurances that there would be no discriminatory action against the trio of protesters consisting of Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik.
The suspension was imposed by United World Wrestling (UWW) on August 23 last year after the national federation failed to hold elections on time.
“The UWW Office met on February 9 to review the suspension among other issues and considering all the elements and information, decided to lift the suspension,” the world body said in a statement.
“The WFI must immediately provide the UWW with written assurances that all wrestlers will be considered for participation without discrimination in all WFI events, in particular trials for the Olympic Games and any other major national and international events.
“This non-discrimination includes the three athletes who protested against alleged irregularities of the former president (Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh),” he said.
In the WFI elections held in December last year, Sanjay Singh, a close associate of the former president, was elected the new director.
The federation, however, was suspended a few days after taking office by the Ministry of Sports, citing violation of the national sports code as the reason. The Indian Olympic Association then appointed an ad hoc committee to manage the sport.
The WFI rejected the Sports Ministry’s decision and has become embroiled in a turf war with the ad hoc committee. Tuesday welcomed the UWW’s decision.
“The ad hoc committee is of no importance now as we have obtained recognition from the UWW. Since this is an Olympic year, we will conduct the trials soon and I am committed to ensuring that the future of none of the wrestlers is in danger,” Sanjay Singh told PTI while responding to the development.
Another WFI source said there would be no discrimination and that Singh would soon write to the protesting trio to seek reconciliation.
“We don’t hold any grudges against the three,” he said.
The suspension came after days of protests against the then WFI president for alleged acts of sexual harassment and corruption. The trio of Punia, Malik and Phogat had taken to the streets to lodge their protest and were often seen breaking down while demanding action against Sharan Singh.
The trio continued to protest even after a formal FIR was registered against them. The judicial process against him continues at this time.
Malik, an Olympic bronze medalist at the 2016 Games, had tearfully announced his retirement from the sport after the December elections, claiming the new president was nothing more than a figurehead.
Punia (bronze winner at Tokyo Olympics) and Phogat (two-time bronze medalist at world championships) returned the national honors awarded to them for their commendable achievements in global competitions.
The lifting of the ban means Indian wrestlers will now be able to compete under the country’s flag at the next UWW event.
“The Disciplinary Chamber of the UWW (on August 23 of last year) decided that it had sufficient reasons to impose the provisional suspension on the body, since the situation in the federation had prevailed for at least six months,” the statement reads. .
The world body also asked the WFI to reconvene the elections of its Athletes Commission.
“The candidates for this commission must be active athletes or retired for no more than four years. The voters will be exclusively athletes,” he stated.
“These elections will take place during the trials or any senior national championship in which this operation may take place, but no later than July 1, 2024,” he added.
The world body said it will remain in contact with the fighters and will monitor developments in the coming days.
The country’s wrestling fraternity suffered quite a bit of turmoil in recent weeks as both the WFI and the ad hoc committee held national championships.
Phogat, who has been battling injury setbacks for several months, participated in the event organized by the ad hoc committee in Jaipur and won a gold medal in the 55kg category.
(With input from PTI)