New Delhi, Jan 18 (EFE).- A group of elite athletes, including Olympic medal winners Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia, denounced Wednesday sexual abuse that women have suffered for years in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) at the hands of coaches and its president.
“Many young women wrestlers have complained to me and cried about being sexually harassed at national camps. I can identify 10 to 20 girls who have been sexually harassed,” said Vinesh Phogat, a gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
Accompanied by Olympic veterans such as Malik (a bronze medal in Rio) and Punia (bronze in Tokyo), Phogat revealed a series of accusations against senior officials in the Indian wrestling federation, including its president, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh.
Singh, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, “has himself, I don’t know, exploited how many girls. Some of the girls are sitting here today,” Phogat told the media during a protest in New Delhi.
The veteran wrestler said that these abuses have been happening for years, but the athletes have not had the courage to report them for fear of reprisals.
“They don’t have the courage to speak publicly because their family backgrounds are not powerful. They cannot fight these powerful people,” said Phogat, adding that these cases also involve coaches and the federation has been aware of it.
During the protest, the Olympic medalist Punia said that India’s top fighters will stop competing in domestic and international tournaments until the authorities take action, according to statements reported by the Indian Express newspaper.
The athletes demanded the resignation of the WFI president, who in turn raised question marks over the protests during a press conference.
“Is there anyone on record who can say the Federation has molested us? If you had such issues with the federation, then why did nobody raise them for 10 years?,” said Singh. EFE