Olympic-winning Indian wrestlers accuse the President of Wrestling Federation of India of sexual abuse, other allegations

As anyone following the wrestling scene in India will tell you, shit's going down.

Several top wrestlers of India, including Olympics bronze medalists Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Mallik, two-time world championships bronze medalist Vinesh Phogat, have been protesting against the Wrestling Federation of India ("WFI") and its President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh - who is also a member and 9-time MP with the party currently in power at the Centre in India - in the capital of India for the past few days. While tensions have been brewing between the wrestlers and the WFI for a while - ESPN reports that Phogat was suspended previously by the WFI for not sparring with other Indian wrestlers - these protests are unprecedented in the history of Indian wrestling.

Phogat has alleged that Singh and other WFI officials have sexually assaulted "at least 10-20 female wrestlers", and has gone to say that she fears for her life after making this accusation. Punia, arguably India's most successful wrestler after 2-time Olympic medalist and murder-accused Sushil Kumar, has said that the WFI officials do not "know anything about wrestling". He has accused the WFI of not having the players' best interests at heart, and has also made a statement saying he has received death threats for speaking up They have been joined recently by Mallik, who won bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Apart from sexual assault, the wrestlers have also accused the WFI of "mental torture", not taking care of the wrestlers during competitive events - Phogat alleges that the Indian women's wrestling contingent did not have a physiotherapist at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 - not allowing foreign coaches and faulty selection criteria. Mallik stated that the selection criteria is based on mandatory participation in a monthly tournament, and has said that several wrestlers, if they miss the tournament any month, have to beg the WFI to be considered for competition. Mallik has also alleged that wrestling trials are held at a particular place (Lucknow, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh; Singh is a member of parliament from a constituency in the same state) because it is easier for the WFI officials and its President Singh, to sexually harass the female wrestlers there. You can read the entirety of what they have been saying during these protests here.

Singh on his part has denied all allegations. Speaking to the media, he said that no athlete has come forward with any complaints about him. Phogat and the other wrestlers are not backing down from their allegations, stating that they are willing to furnish evidence in court, as well as to the Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, whom they have appealed for support.

Taking cognizance of the matter, the Sports Ministry of India yesterday (Wednesday, January 18, 2023) has asked the WFI to respond to all allegations within 72 hours, failing which it will initiate legal action against the WFI.

It is safe to say that the WFI has a lot of explaining to do.

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