India faces Olympic ban with Lalit Bhanot set for IOA role

NEW DELHI Sat Dec 1, 2012 5:15pm IST

1 of 3. The Olympic flame burns in the cauldren in front of a large video screen displaying the Olympic rings during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 3, 2012.

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Tainted former Commonwealth Games official Lalit Bhanot was left as the only candidate in a controversial election for the post of secretary-general of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) which is likely to earn the country an Olympic ban.

Bhanot, who spent 11 months in custody last year following corruption charges that plagued the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and is out on bail, was confirmed for the post late on Friday after the rival faction pulled out ahead of Wednesday's election.

Boxing federation chief Abhay Singh Chautala is also set to be elected unopposed for the IOA president's post and his immediate job would be to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to suspend the body he hopes to head.

Irked by the government interference in the election process, the IOC has said it will propose a suspension at its executive board meeting next week.

The IOA has been directed by a Delhi court to hold the elections under a controversial government sports code, while the IOC wants it to go by its own constitution and the Olympic charter.

Chautala and his IOA colleagues met sports minister Jitendra Singh on Friday and is optimistic of avoiding the IOC suspension.

"We appraised the minister all matters concerning elections and he gave us a patient hearing," Chautala said in a statement.

"We also requested him to find a solution to the raging debate over IOC's periodical letters (warning the IOA). He assured us that after discussing the matter he will revert to us," Chautala said.

The IOA chief defended Bhanot's selection saying the official has not been declared guilty yet.

"Until the court decides he is guilty, there is no restriction on him fighting elections," Chautala said.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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