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Independent sports body welcomes retirement of India's Olympic boss

NEW DELHI -- Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi's decision not to run for re-election next month has been welcomed by an independent sports group that had been pushing for his ouster.

Clean Sports India vice-president Ashwini Nachappa told The Associated Press on Tuesday, “Our fight has been justified.”

The controversial Kalmadi confirmed last weekend that he will not contest the IOA elections after 16 years at the helm.

The International Olympic Committee told the IOA that Kalmadi and two other officials linked to the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games corruption scandal should not be allowed to contest the elections on Nov. 25.

“I have served Indian sports, for the last four terms as president of the IOA, to the best of my abilities and have now decided to make way for a new generation of sports leaders,” Kalmadi said in a statement on Saturday.

The IOC said its ethics committee recommended that the IOA suspend Kalmadi, Lalit Bhanot and VK Verma until court proceedings are completed.

“We sent a letter,” Nachappa, a former Olympic sprinter, said by phone, “signed by some 400 athletes to the IOC to make them understand the situation here and that the IOA was only likely to succumb to its parent body rather than to the government. We were in regular touch with IOC officials about the issue and had got repeated assurances from them.”

Kalmadi spent nine months in jail for graft charges related to the Commonwealth Games, which were marred by construction delays, and a budget which ballooned to US$15 billion from an initial estimate of US$412 million.

Kalmadi, who has not been convicted of anything and is out on bail, has not resigned even though he is not involved in the IOA's regular functions. Another veteran administrator, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, has been running the association as the acting president.

“He (Kalmadi) has stated that he will not contest the IOA elections but there are still others who have been around for a long time,” Nachappa said. “We've not been against Kalmadi but rather want a proper system in place. Sports administration is not a family business that one runs. You have to follow norms, get sportsmen into the system.”

Nachappa felt Sports Minister Ajay Maken helped build the pressure on Kalmadi as he pushed for a sports bill that could restrict long tenures by sports officials and bring accountability.

“For the first time, the sports ministry has taken on the bigwigs of sports. I don't know how much it (sports bill) will move forward but there definitely has been pressure,” she said.

Nachappa said the CSI is pushing former athletes to get into administration.

“The IOA as well as some other federations are due for elections and we are asking former sportspersons to get into the system. A small start at the grassroots level administration too could help in the long run,” she added.

The CSI is headed by former field hockey captain Pargat Singh.

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