Bad blood resurfaces in wrestling over Olympic axe

Moscow, May 20 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Recriminations over wrestling’s exclusion from the Olympics re-emerged Monday, as supporters of the sport’s former chief were accused of hurling insults at an official meeting.

Wrestling was cut from the 2020 Olympics in February by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), amid low spectator interest and claims of corrupt refereeing in some major bouts.

After the IOC decision, Raphael Martinetti, president of the sport’s world governing body FILA, resigned after coming close to losing a vote of confidence from his board.

His temporary replacement Nenad Lalovic was elected as permanent president Saturday, but Martinetti and his supporters were allegedly bitter at the following meeting of the FILA executive board.

“The meeting started with insulting words,” said Mikhail Mamashvili, head of the Russian Wrestling Federation and seen as an ally of Lalovic. “It’s a cause for serious investigation.”

Speaking at a news conference at RIA Novosti, Mamashvili said Martinetti and his supporters had accused the new regime of forcing through changes undemocratically, which Mamashvili called “untrue and a lie”.

Martinetti stood for election alongside Lalovic for the president’s job, but pulled out before the vote in an apparent show of reconciliation that Mamashvili said was as significant as announcing he would not try to unseat Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He understood he had zero chance, and then he retracted his candidature,” the Russian said. “With the same level of seriousness, I could say that I am also retracting my candidature from the election to be president of the Russian Federation.”

Claims from Martinetti that he had been forced out of office in February after the IOC dropped wrestling were crazy nonsense,” Mamashvili added.

Wrestling’s fate will be decided at an IOC congress in Buenos Aires in September, when it must beat seven other candidate sports to claim the last space in the Olympic schedule.

The conference when Lalovic was elected also signed off on new rules for wrestling, which will be used for the first time at a major tournament at September’s World Championships in Budapest.

Wrestling was a mainstay of the ancient Olympics and has been included in various forms at every modern Olympics since 1904.

–IANS/RIA Novosti


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