SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia amid female cyclists harassment claims

SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia amid female cyclists harassment claims

SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia amid female cyclists harassment claims SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia amid female cyclists harassment claims

After a female cyclist accused chief coach R K Sharma of “inappropriate behaviour” during the training/competition trip to Slovenia, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) decided on Wednesday to recall the entire Indian cycling team.

Five male and one female Indian endurance athletes travelled to Slovenia on May 15 and were scheduled to return on June 14.

The cyclist who made the charges has already been summoned by SAI, and an investigation committee has been formed to look into the incident.

SAI has decided to short the training trip, according to the Chairman of the Cycling Federation of India (CFI), Onkar Singh.

“SAI official called up CFI this morning and said all the contingent including coach RK Sharma will be called back immediately from Slovenia,” Singh said.

It has been learnt that SAI also shot off a separate missive to coach Sharma to return as soon as possible.

The training-cum-competition trip to Slovenia was arranged to help Indian team prepare well for the Asian Track Cycling Championships, scheduled to be held in the national capital from June 18 to 22.

The female cyclist had apprised the SAI of inappropriate behaviour by coach during her stay in Slovenia and was so terrified that she feared for her life.

The matter had come to light on Monday when SAI issued a statement, saying it has called the cyclist back to ensure her safety.

The complainant claimed that the coach forced her to share a hotel room with him on the pretext that accommodation has been arranged on twin-sharing basis.

Later on her request, SAI arranged for a separate single room for her but the coach did not take her to Germany for an event along with the other members of the contingent for putting up resistance.

The coach threatened the cyclist that he will destroy her career by having her removed from the National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) if she will not sleep with him, according to the complaint.

Fearing for her safety, the cyclist had then decided to quit the training camp.

However, it has come to light that SAI had actually arranged for a separate room for her because she was the only female member of the contingent and there was no need for her to share the room with anyone.

“SAI in its direction had beforehand said that the athlete in question will be given a single room as she was the only female member in the contingent,” a SAI source said.

Coach Sharma will have to appear before a five-member inquiry panel, which will be headed by SAI’s internal sexual harassment committee head.

Sports Minister Anurag Thakur promised action against the coach if allegations proved to be true.

“After the inquiry whatever actions needs to be taken we will take because in sports we can’t tolerate anything like this,” Thakur said.

“We had taken a call on day one when it was brought to the notice of the department. The athletes and the coach have been called back and the department has been told to initiate an inquiry and take necessary action. If a coach is involved in such a shameful act, we will have to find the truth and take action.”

The CFI has also formed a four-member committee to probe the matter and had promised complete backing to the victim.

The CFI’s panel includes secretary general Maninder Pal Singh, SS Sudeesh Kumar (President, Kerala Cycling), Dipali Nikam (chief coach, Maharashtra cycling team) and assistant secretary VN Singh.