At a time when India is looking avidly to make its mark at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with a double digit medal score, a government organised event has been blatantly entertaining and more so, sponsoring unethical malpractices.
The All India Inter University Games, hosted the Men’s Swimming 2019, at Lovely Professional University, Punjab from November 1-4.
A day before the event began, on October 31, multiple swimmers raised complaints regarding the lack of qualified officials who were absolutely zapped about the basics of swimming and its functioning. There was little to no clarity by these officials regarding the instructions or the timing management. With a whopping 300-400 swimmers, the bare minimum is a revision on instructions and time-keeping for all participants.
Along with this, there were also complaints made regarding the lack of a proper timing system. There was the absence of touch pads, which meant that manual recording had to be solely depended upon.
November 1 saw a rising protest from the swimmers, when a swimmer from the host university was recorded making an early start which is equivalent to an instant disqualification under the rules and guidelines by FINA – the highest swimming regulatory authority in the world.
Sahil Chopra, a student- swimmer representing LPU, was recorded taking an early start in the 50 metres butterfly event, where Mihir Ambre of Maharashtra overtook him and clearly touched the wall well in advance, yet Sahil was surprisingly declared the winner of the event, with a timing of 24.32 seconds, while Mihir was awarded or rather in this case disrewarded with the second position, with a time of 24.40 seconds.
Even a layman could make out the stark distinction in the finishing of both the participants in question. While this event laid the base to the unethical practices and the cheating, it didn’t stop here.
Time and again, swimmers from LPU were encouraged to continue with these malpractices and cheating was all that remained within the event. Even though there were multiple times that the cheating was blatant and participants went up to report it and ask for a justification, not much was done by the authorities who constantly claimed that action would be taken.
The only corrections made by the host university was in the 50 metres butterfly event, under much pressure and due to visual evidence. Even post this, certain officials were recorded to have stated that the malpractices would continue to happen, and no one could stop it or bring about any difference.
The protest took full swing when a bunch of swimmers, namely Likith SP, Srihari Natraj, Ansh Arora, Mihir Ambre, Siva Sridhar and many others, took to their social media. The issues reached the ears of many Olympians and the constant roll of sharing the incidents happening at LPU, did finally make its way to the Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju who was constantly being tagged by those sharing the stories.
The Minister promised to look into the proceedings as well condemned the unethical management of the competition. While no concrete measures have been taken by the government, there is still hope from the strong condemnation that has flown out from all parts of the country and from various athletes.
Most universities finally refused to let their swimmers withdraw from the competition, as a form of protest, and pushed them into swimming despite all allegations and malpractices, which I personally believe was as unethical and wrong as the cheating propaganda by LPU and its officials.
I have taken congnizance of the issue. Director General of Sports Authority of India is in touch with AIU officials. The matter is being investigated by AIU and I am confident that the correct course of action will be taken soon. https://t.co/MejbSiOWQ6
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) November 3, 2019
If the universities don’t allow these young athletes stand up for what is right and malpractice and unethical competing is normalised, it will not only pull down the morale of talented and passionate sportspersons but also take away India’s dream for a higher medal tally. It may even encourage young potential to quit sports altogether.
The only ray of hope within this entire fiasco is the grit and determination of these young lads to bring about a change and clean up the sporting culture and to make fair play the common practice and not the opposite.
With the women’s nationals starting on November 5, one can only hope that this does not repeat.