After Ramesh Malhotra's suspension on charges of sexual harassment, the Indian Weightlifting Federation on Sunday headed towards a bitter showdown among its top brass with Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari demanding the sacking of secretary Sahdev Yadav for ignoring complaints against the disgraced coach.
Malleswari, who is a vice-President in IWF, said Yadav has to be shown the door so that coaches like Malhotra, who is accused of sexually harassing junior lifters for over a decade, never get appointed again.
"Suspending the coach is not enough. The Federation secretary should also be sacked because he didn't act against Malhotra despite repeated complaints. If he is not sacked then people like Malhotra will be made coach again," Malleswari said at her residence in Noida.
Malhotra, meanwhile, denied the charges and said Malleswari was trying to defame him. Speaking to PTI in Patiala, Malhotra said the IWF should ask the girls training under him to find out the truth.
"She (Malleswari) has stained my 26-year-old career in sports coaching. I will not let this put me down. I will battle for my reputation," he said.
"Malleswari thinks she can use her international fame to corner me on my reputation. I will prove her wrong," he added.
Malleswari said that she complained against Malhotra latest in February this year but was shocked when she found his name in the IWF's list of recommendations for this year's Dronacharya award.
"I made a complaint against Malhotra at the IWF executive committee meeting in Udaipur in February and I was assured that action would be taken. But leave alone taking action, he was recommended for the Dronacharya award," she added.
"Considering his past record, he should not have been given charge of woman lifters. But he was kept at the camp and even taken as women's coach in the recent junior Asian Championships. By recommending his name for Dronacharya Award, the IWF is devaluing the prestigious honour," said the country's only Olympic woman medallist.
Malhotra was suspended after Malleswari revealed that he had been harassing young lifters but she did not level any specific charges or reveal the identity of any particular victim.
Asked what took her so long to go public against Malhotra, Malleswari said, "Whatever I am saying now was never a secret. Sports Authority of India officials, senior coaches, the federation and the players knew about it all along. If they would have taken a decision then, it would not have come to this."
"At the time all this happened, I was myself an active player and was focussing only on my game. But SAI has several written complaints against him and if they couldn't act, what could I have done at that time? But now I am the vice president of the Federation and have raised my voice on the issue," she said.
Meanwhile, the IWF has named a three-member committee headed by its vice-president Kumbasi Subramanya, veteran coach Pal Sandhu and joint secretary Madan Lal Salvi to probe the matter.
Subramanya said he and the other two members will go to the National Institute of Sports in Patiala to speak to the Commonwealth Games core group lifters training there.
"We are going to the National Institute of Sports in a day or two to interact with the CWG core group lifters if they have any complaints against Malhotra," Subramanya said.
Subramanya, who is the CWG weightlifting competition director, said the committee will also ask Malleswari to submit a written complaint.
"We are going to talk to everybody, the lifters, coaches, Malhotra and Malleswari. They may be asked to meet us or make written submissions," he said.
Asked if the report will be submitted within the seven-day period as asked by the IWF, Subramanya said, "We will try to submit the report in time but may take longer also as I am also weightlifting competition director of Commonwealth Games."
Malleswari, meanwhile, also had to face some questions on her controversial past, including allegations of doping.
"I have nothing to hide. I have played the sport for 18 years and if I had ever taken any dope then I would have been caught at least once."
"I was tested thrice during the Sydney Olympics. So I don't think there is any need to prove my innocence to anybody. He (Sahdev) has to react somehow so he is talking about it," she added.
Malleswari said women coaches should be there with the team in camps and trips abroad.
"It is important to keep a woman in the coaching staff with the team during tours. So that if they face any problem, they can come forward and complain," she said.
Malleswari also said she was ready to coach the lifters.
"I would want to coach the lifters if given a chance. I am planning to open my own academy and I would be happy if I can contribute to the game," she said.