Sports Authority of India terminates contract of cycling coach for harassing woman cyclist

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New Delhi: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Wednesday terminated the contract of chief cycling coach R K Sharma after a preliminary enquiry found him guilty of "inappropriate behaviour" with a female cyclist during a training camp in Slovenia.

The SAI took the decision hours after it decided to call back the entire Indian contingent from the European nation where the cyclists had gone for a training-cum-competition trip.

The victim, who reportedly feared for her life due to the alleged harassment and requested to get back home, has already been brought to the country, keeping in mind her safety.

SAI had formed a five-member committee, headed by its internal sexual harassment committee chief, to look into the allegations. The panel submitted an initial report, based on which the sports body took the decision.

"The committee has submitted its preliminary report today and prima facie the case is established and the allegations of the athlete are found to be true," SAI said in a statement.

"The coach who was hired on the recommendation of the Cycling Federation of India had a contract with the Sports Authority of India. Following the report, SAI has terminated the contract of the coach with immediate effect," the statement added.

SAI said a detailed investigation will follow and the committee will submit a final report soon.

Earlier in the day, SAI informed the Cycling Federation of India (SAI) that it was terminating the camp and calling back the entire contingent, immediately.

The Indian endurance contingent, consisting of five males and a female, flew to Slovenia on May 15 for a month-long camp which was to conclude on June 14.

"One SAI official called up CFI this morning and said all the contingent including coach RK Sharma will be called back immediately from Slovenia," CFI Chairman Onkar Singh told PTI.

It has been learnt that SAI had 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 the Indian team prepare 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 the coach during her stay in Slovenia.

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 a 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.

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

The CFI has also formed a four-member committee to probe the matter and 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. PTI

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