United World Wrestling Lifts WFI Suspension with Immediate Effect

The United World Wrestling (UWW) has lifted the suspension imposed on the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with immediate effect.

On August 23, 2023, the Federation was provisionally suspended by the world wrestling body for failing to hold its elections on time. The absence of an elected president and board was held to be in violation of the UWW regulations and the conditions for membership. In arriving at its decision, the UWW Disciplinary Chamber also considered the allegations levelled against the former WFI President, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Consequently, Indian wrestlers were not allowed to use the national flag while participating in the World Wrestling Championships 2023, which were held from September 16 to 24 in Belgrade, Serbia; the wrestlers participated under the UWW flag.

In the following UWW events, Indian wrestlers will be able to participate under the national flag. However, the lifting of suspension has been made subject to certain conditions.

Firstly, the UWW called for the reconvening of the elections of the Athletes’ Commission by July 1, 2024. The said Commission was announced by the suspended WFI in January, with former wrestler and London Olympics bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt as Chairman. It has been made clear that in the fresh elections to be conducted, the candidates have to be active athletes or retired for no longer than four years. Further, the voters have to be exclusively athletes.

Secondly, the WFI has been asked to provide written guarantees to ensure that there is no discrimination and that all wrestlers are considered for participating in WFI events. Referring to Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, and Sakshi Malik, UWW’s press release states that the “three athletes who protested against alleged wrongdoings by the former President” should not be discriminated against.

Meanwhile, the WFI, vide an undated circular, informed that it is conducting selection trials for the Asian Championships and the Olympic Qualifiers (scheduled to be held in April in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), on March 10 and 11. The ad-hoc committee, set up by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) after the Sports Ministry suspended the WFI, has reportedly scheduled its selection on the same dates. The current state of affairs has led protesting wrestlers to file a writ petition before the Delhi High Court, challenging the said circular on selection trials. The Court has sought responses from the WFI, the ad-hoc committee, and the Central Government.