International Olympic Committee condemns treatment of wrestlers, urges IOA to protect athletes

Indian wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and Sangeeta Phogat struggle as they are detained by the police while attempting to march to India's new parliament, during a protest against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Singh. ARUN THAKUR/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has condemned the treatment of India's top wrestlers over the weekend -- where amidst chaotic scenes, the wrestlers, including Olympians Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat, were detained by the police. The IOC also stated that they are in close contact with United World Wrestling (UWW), the world body of the sport. UWW had also condemned the detention of the wrestlers in a strongly worded statement on Tuesday.

In response to ESPN's queries on their cognisance of the events over the past few days, the IOC said:

"The treatment of the Indian wrestling athletes over the weekend was very disturbing. The IOC insists that the allegations by the wrestlers are followed up on by an unbiased, criminal investigation in line with local law. We understand that a first step towards such a criminal investigation has been made, but more steps have to follow before concrete actions become visible. We urge that the safety and wellbeing of these athletes is duly considered throughout this process and that this investigation will be speedily concluded."

"From the very beginning of the allegations, the IOC has been in close contact with United World Wrestling (UWW), which has already taken measures. The IOC supports UWW as the competent sporting authority to address this issue as it pertains to the governance of the sport of wrestling in India. We have been informed by UWW that the President of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is currently not in charge. The IOC will continue to support UWW in all their efforts and in the framework of the IOC Guidelines for International Federations and NOCs for safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse in sport."

"The IOC also urges the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to take all necessary actions to protect the athletes and to make sure that the elections of WFI are happening as planned and in line with the regulations of UWW as an International Federation."

Earlier, United World Wrestling on Tuesday had released a strongly-worded statement condemning the treatment of India's top wrestlers during their protest at Jantar Mantar and threatened to suspend the national federation if it fails to hold its election within the stipulated time. The world body said it has been keeping an eye on the protest by the wrestlers against the outgoing Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for allegedly sexually harassing several women including a minor. On Sunday, they were forcibly detained from the site of protest.

India's top wrestlers including Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi for over a month now. On May 28, they were forcefully arrested and detained by the Delhi Police. The wrestlers had called for a 'Mahila Samman Mahapanchayat' around the same time as the inauguration of the new Parliament Building on Sunday and breached the security cordon set up by the police, which resulted in their detention. The women wrestlers were released in the evening, but the Delhi Police has filed an FIR against them and others who participated in the protest.