Despite spending lakhs, judokas forced to miss international meet

Only 7 out of 27 athletes competed at the Commonwealth Judo Championships — 2023 at Gqeberha, Port Elizabeth (South Africa) held from August 2 to 6.
For representational purposes (Photo | AP)
For representational purposes (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI: It's rare but there have been instances when a few national sports federations (NSFs) have demanded a fixed amount from athletes as a security deposit before participation in international events. The amount is being used for bearing penalties levied in case an athlete does not compete in the requested international event. Judo Federation of India (JFI), however, seems to have taken it to the next level by asking each judoka wishing to compete at an international tournament to submit Rs 50,000 as the security deposit and making the sum non-refundable. 

Even as the guidelines were framed last year, judokas felt their impact recently when a delay in the issuance of visas for an international event caused them financial losses to the tune of more than a lakh each. As many as 27 judokas including cadet, junior, senior and veteran were scheduled to compete at the Commonwealth Judo Championships — 2023 at Gqeberha, Port Elizabeth (South Africa) from August 2 to 6. But most of them had to cancel the trip to the rainbow nation as they got visas quite late. Only seven athletes from the country participated in the event.

"I have paid the security deposit, booked flight tickets, done registration for the tournament and even paid for local transport. Overall I have spent over Rs 1 lakh but had to miss the event due to a delay in getting the visa," a judoka told this daily requesting anonymity. The judoka was a strong contender to finish on the podium which in turn could have helped her recover expenses through prize money.

The chances of pocketing medals were quite high in the tournament and it can be gauged by the fact that seven judokas from the country won eight medals (one judoka won a gold each in senior and junior categories) including six gold and two silver. The Indian contingent had bagged 48 medals and 117 medals in the 2019 and 2018 editions respectively.

Another judoka, who also missed the tournament, had to borrow money for flight tickets and other expenditures. "It's not about security deposit only. We have to arrange for our accommodation, visa, flight tickets and local transportation. It's not easy as we all are unemployed and have to arrange funds to meet these expenses," said the judoka.

In the wake of the order of the Delhi High Court, the JFI is being run by an administrator, retired Justice Pankaj Naqvi, since June 2022. He is being guided by an advisory board but none of them were available for their comments on the issue.

As far as the guidelines are concerned, Rajan CS, assistant secretary of JFI, mailed them to each affiliated member on July 23 last year. "The JFI advisory committee has framed the guidelines. The security deposit is mandatory as it helps in bearing penalties levied in case a judoka misses the event. The guidelines have been framed for two years," Rajan told this daily.

While making security deposit mandatory is not a new concept making it non-refundable is extremely rare. "It used to be refundable in the past but making it non-refundable has made it difficult for every judoka. The irony is that the JFI arbitrarily exempts a few judokas from the clause," one of the coaches told this daily on condition of anonymity.

Rajan also admitted that a few judokas who could not compete in the championships due to late issuance of visas have raised the issue with the JFI. "Why have these judokas taken the issue to the media when we have assured them a solution? We will have a meeting in this regard and return the security deposit to those who couldn't compete after speaking to all stakeholders." The assistant secretary, however, couldn't justify why the security deposit clause was made non-refundable.

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