India sports change to avoid Olympic expulsion

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NEW DELHI (AP) - The Indian Olympic Association amended its constitution Sunday to avoid expulsion from the Olympics, barring officials charged with a crime from running for elections.

The changes were made at a meeting in New Delhi just two days before a Tuesday deadline set by the IOC. The Indian body wanted to bar only those convicted for two or more years and leave the lesser cases to be judged by an internal committee.

The IOA had been facing the prospect of "de-recognition" after being suspended last December for not following its constitution and electing tainted officials, notably secretary-general Lalit Bhanot, who spent 10 months in jail on corruption charges related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Bhanot and IOA President Abhay Chautala, charged in a recruitment scam not related to sports, are not eligible for elections on Feb. 9.

"The IOA has unanimously decided to amend the relevant clause in its constitution which would bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections," said IOA official S. Raghunathan. "Both Chautala and Bhanot said they will not contest the upcoming elections."

The IOC had been corresponding regularly for months with the Indian body in a bid to finalize a new constitution. But the situation had reached an impasse during a crucial period with the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Sochi Olympics all scheduled for 2014.

India, which hopes to have the suspension lifted after the IOC approves the new constitution, had moved close to becoming the first country to be kicked out of the Olympic movement since South Africa was expelled for its racial segregation policies more than 40 years ago.

IOC President Thomas Bach told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday that it would withdraw recognition of the IOA if it failed to comply with "rules of good governance" before an IOC meeting in Lausanne on Tuesday. That's when India's case was scheduled for discussion.

During the suspension, the Indian body has not been receiving IOC funding. Its officials were banned from attending Olympic meetings and events and India's athletes couldn't compete in Olympic events under their national flag.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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