The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) on Saturday banned two shooters for a year and six months respectively even though they were absolved of charges of sexual harassment.
The two shooters, whose names were not made public, were slapped the bans for "mental harassment involving incidences of abusive and indecent language". They have been banned from all international and national tournaments till their suspension period ends.
Acting on the recommendations of the six-member probe committee headed by ace shooter Anjali Bhagwat, the NRAI also reprimanded three other marksman for "abetting the wrongdoings".
The woman shooter, who had made the complaint, was also reprimanded.
It all started after a woman shooter, selected to participate for a trap event in international junior shooting competition at Suhl, Germany last month, had complained to the NRAI and Sports Ministry accusing two of her team members of making sexual and derogatory comments.
Acting swiftly, the NRAI immediately suspended the two shooters while recommending a probe committee to go into the details.
"Based on our interaction with shooters, coaches and officials, we came to the conclusion that whatever transpired cannot be construed as verbal sexual harassment in any way. At worst, there seems to be a case of mental harassment involving incidences of loud, abusive and indecent language directed against a WW (woman shooter) over an argument or two, which appears more like teasing and bullying tactics that are common among teenagers," the committee said in its report.
"We recommend that ZZ be suspended for a period of 12 months from participating in any national or international competitive shooting events in the interest of the sport and the nation at large," according to the report.
"We recommend that YY be suspended for a period of 6 months or until the Nationals (NSCC) whichever is earlier, from participating in any national or international competitive shooting events. He shall be under close observation on any future tours."
Regarding the three other shooters reprimanded for "abetting the wrongdoings", the committee said, "The remaining group of boys, viz. BB, PP & AA, seems to have abetted the wrongdoings either with active participation or passive indifference. They have been party to breaching the dos and don'ts instructed by the Team Manager from day one of the competition."
One of the accused is said to be a junior national champion in double trap, who was also part of the senior team at the Acapulco World Cup.
As far as the day shooter was concerned, the probe committee recommended a "a strong worded warning to improve her conduct and behaviour with all her co-shooters and maintain cordial relation with one and all in the team".
The committee expressed surprise at the finding that the parents of the lady shooter did not bring the issue to the NRAI's notice despite her claims that she "had been in touch with her parents almost every day".
"Pressing charges of a serious nature as verbal sexual harassment against anybody without considering the reputation of NRAI and shooting fraternity as a whole, was highly uncalled for," the committee said about the lady shooter.
Besides Bhagwat, the committee included Suma Shirur, Vikram Bhatnagar, Samresh Jung, Bejon Misra and S Krishnan. After the completion of inquiry, it submitted its report to the NRAI's athlete committee headed by former shooter Morad Ali Khan.
The committee further recommended: "We recommend that NRAI should exercise more caution in appointing Officials and Coaches who accompany the team and carefully select officials, and formally empower them to take disciplinary action, as considered appropriate while on tour."
Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters