A senior female cyclist has filed a complaint of harassment against national chief coach (sprint) RK Sharma during the team's training camp in Slovenia, alleging that he asked to share a room with her and then later, on another date, entered her room forcefully and made suggestive gestures.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) got the female cyclist to return to India on 4 June while the coach has now been ordered to return, along with the rest of the cycling contingent.
A four-member committee was constituted by the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) to look into the case and their investigation proceedings got underway on 7 June. The SAI also constituted a five-member inquiry panel, which is headed by their internal sexual harassment committee head.
The SAI shared a timeline of how the incident unfolded with The Quint.
The female cyclist was one of six sent for a training-cum-competition foreign exposure trip to Slovenia in June. Notably, she was the only woman in the team.
The camp was set up to help prepare the team for the Asian Track Cycling Championships, scheduled to take place in New Delhi from 18 to 22 June. The team landed in Slovenia on 16 May.
16 May: Cyclist 'Allotted' a Room With the Coach, Gets a Separate One After Complaining
The six cyclists and support staff reached Slovenia for the camp and while checking into the hotel, the female cyclist was informed that the contingent was getting rooms on a double-sharing basis, and she was asked to share hers with coach RK Sharma.
The news was relayed to the SAI senior development officer (SDO) for cycling at 9 pm through a retired former senior athlete. The SDO then spoke to Onkar Singh, the chairperson of the Cycling Federation of India (CFI), and "flagged off the issue since the sanction made by SAI for the athletes for the foreign exposure clearly indicated that since she was the only girl athlete in the team she would have a separate room while other athletes would share rooms," according to the information shared by SAI with The Quint.
The SAI SDO then spoke to the athlete, "who was disturbed for being asked to share the room, and assured her that she would have a single room immediately."
Following the conversation, the SAI SDO and the CFI chairperson arranged for a separate hotel room for the female cyclist.
22 May: Cyclist Complains of Snide Remarks by Coach
The training camp started on schedule on 18 May.
On 22 May, the athlete informed the SAI SDO that she was "being subjected to snide remarks by the coach and that he was not even willing to speak to her to impart training instructions. She said that she felt disturbed by this attitude of the coach," the document shared by the Sports Authority of India added.
"The SDO then advised her to have a few counselling sessions with the psychologist so that she could concentrate on her training more," it said.
On 30 May, a female officer and another coach were to be sent to Slovenia for the same training camp "wherein she would observe the camp and the coach shall aid/assist in the training and provide an alternate in case the chief coach was required to be called back. But due to the unavailability of the Visa for the two, they could not proceed (sic)," the SAI added.
According to sources, on 29 May, the coach forcefully entered the athlete's room and lied down on her bed. A report in The Indian Express states that in her complaint the cyclist has said: "He then proceeded to lay on the bed. When I requested him to leave, he forcefully tried pulling me towards him and asked me to come and sleep with him."
“In addition, he made comments such as — I should behave like his wife as he is extremely fond of me and wants me to be his wife,” the cyclist said in her complaint statement.
While she did not immediately report the matter, a male cyclist noticed a change and sought intervention, a source informed The Quint.
1 June: It Is Decided That the Cyclist Should Return to India
"At around 8:30 pm on 1 June, Commodore PK Garg, the CEO of Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS), got to know that some untoward incident had happened involving the female athlete and the coach. He immediately called up the athlete to speak to her. The athlete did not want to divulge in detail what exactly had happened but she also said that she did not want to leave the training camp (sic)," the SAI document stated.
"However, CEO TOPS convinced her that her safety was of paramount importance and that SAI would arrange to bring her back immediately. The other team members were instructed to help her dismantle and pack her cycle because that is a time-consuming task and the effort was to ensure that she could take the earliest flight out. The next available flight was on 2 June at 7 am local time that the distance to the airport was 70 kilometres. It was therefore decided that she would take the 7 am flight on 3 June. She was sent the tickets on 1 June night itself. She landed in Delhi on 4th early morning and was received at the airport by a SAI Development Officer (DO) and ARM (athlete relationship manager) from TOPS (sic)," it added.
4-5 June: Cyclist Returns, SAI Forms Internal Complaints Committee
After the cyclist's arrival in India, the CEO of TOPS, along with the SDO (Cycling), met the athlete in the presence of the psychologist she had been speaking to during the trip.
The cyclist shared "her ordeal to them and gave her written complaint vide email dated 5 June. Against the same, SAI referred the matter to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the provisions of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 (sic)," the Sports Authority of India told The Quint.
6 June: SAI Releases Official Statement on the Matter
On 6 June, the SAI released a statement on the matter saying, "the Sports Authority of India has received a complaint from a cyclist of inappropriate behaviour by a coach during a foreign exposure camp in Slovenia. The coach was appointed on the recommendation of the Cycling Federation of India."
"Following the compliant by the athlete, SAI has immediately brought her back to India to ensure her safety and has also constituted a committee to investigate the matter. The matter is being dealt on priority and will be resolved shortly," the statement added.
8 June: Coach & All Other Cyclists Called Back
The CFI's inquiry committee started their investigation on 7 June, and one day later, the Sports Authority of India announced their decision to call back the entire cycling contingent from the training camp in Slovenia. It is scheduled to return on 14 June.
"SAI official called up CFI this morning and said all the contingent including coach RK Sharma will be called back immediately from Slovenia," CFI Chairperson Onkar Singh was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.