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IOC bans Indian Olympic Association, elections void

By Karolos Grohmann

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The Indian Olympic Association has been banned and elections on Wednesday will be "null and void", the IOC said on Tuesday, claiming government interference in a vote that could result in a tainted official taking over as secretary-general.

"They are not entitled to have elections and if for some reason they go ahead this will not be recognized," said the IOC's Pere Miro, in charge of relations with national Olympic committees.

"This is because this is part of a full problem. The election process has been tarnished since the origin. Many different interferences, many governmental rules and their own bad interpretation of IOA statutes," Miro said.

Miro, who said Kuwait escaped a similar ban due to an amendment of its sports law, said the ban was triggered by both government interference and bad governance by the IOA.

"What happened in the past is null and if something happens now it is the same," Miro told reporters.

The ban means an effective end to funding from the IOC to the national Olympic committee (IOA), no Indian officials attending Olympic meetings and Indian athletes banned from competing at the Olympics under their country's flag.

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

The IOC has been angered by government interference in the elections and had warned the IOA in a letter of a possible suspension.

"This is wrong and completely unilateral," Abhay Singh Chautala, who is expected to be elected as IOA President on Friday, told reporters.

"We'd go to the IOC again and explain them of the actual situation and the details of the election. This ban was completely thrust on us.

"It's a unilateral decision. The IOA acting president had written to the IOC but they didn't reply. I had also written a letter saying we are sending two members to explain the situation and requested for appointment. Again there was no answer to that."

The IOA has been directed by a Delhi court to hold the elections adhering to the government's sports code, while the IOC wants the governing body to abide by the Olympic charter.

The IOC blamed non-cooperation by the Indian government and the IOA for the current situation.

Acting IOA President VK Malhotra said his organization was caught in the middle.

"We had gone to the prime minister and asked him not to pass that controversial bill. The bill was not passed but the code was imposed. That's how the problem started," he said.

"Now the IOC is complaining of government interference, while court and government want us to go by the code. We were caught in the crossfire. We will try and find some reconciliation so that our athletes don't suffer."

(Additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John Mehaffey and Ed Osmond)

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