SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia after woman cyclist accuses coach of ‘inappropriate behaviour’

After reaching Slovenia, the cyclist requested for a separate room but coach R K Sharma allegedly responded in a “rude and dismissive manner”

SAI calls back cycling contingent from Slovenia after woman cyclist accuses coach of ‘inappropriate behaviour’
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New Delhi: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has decided to the call back the entire Indian cycling contingent back to the country from Slovenia after a female cyclist accused chief coach R K Sharma of “inappropriate behaviour” during the training-cum-competition trip.

The Indian contingent, consisting of five male and one female cyclists, was scheduled to return on June 14. It was also learnt that SAI, in a separate notice, has asked Sharma to return as soon as possible.

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In her complaint to SAI, the cyclist wrote, ““I was scheduled to leave for the cycling training camp in Slovenia for the date 15 May 2022 to 14 June 2022. After all the logistical arrangements were made, to my sheer surprise and shock, three days before my scheduled travel date, I received a call from my coach R K Sharma telling me that I have to share the room at Hotel Balnea in Slovenia with him alone.”

“Since I had to catch the flight to Slovenia in a couple of days, I was left with almost no time to process the information provided to me by the coach,” the complaint states. “In my state of extreme confusion and anxiousness on losing the opportunity to train abroad and attend the camp, I thought I would reach Slovenia and try to request for alternate arrangements.”

After reaching Slovenia, the cyclist requested for a separate room but Sharma allegedly responded in a “rude and dismissive manner” and told her that she should have “stayed back in India”.

“Subsequently, my request for a separate/different room was not paid heed to. I had no option but to be in the coach’s room, which was also originally designated to me. This is also shown in the hotel records,” she further wrote.

Later, when the team’s support staff was informed, a senior SAI official organized a separate room for the cyclist. However, this further infuriated Sharma and he allegedly threatened to destroy the cyclist’s career.

The complaint added, ““He regularly kept making threatening comments with regard to my career and told me that I will be removed from the cycling NCOE and he will make sure that I sell vegetables on the road. I continue to not have any words to describe the extreme mental agony, shock and fear that I continue to feel till this very moment.”

The cyclist further said that on May 19, she was invited by Sharma to his room for a post-training massage but she refused. Later, on May 25, when she was to travel to Germany with the men’s team for an event, Sharma allegedly did not take her along with them reportedly because there was no spare room.

“However, the worst was yet to come… On the 29th of May 2022, the coach returned from Germany early in the morning at approximately 7 am. I heard a knock on my door. Upon opening the door, I found, much to my horror, the coach physically forcing himself into my room. 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,” the complaint further states.

“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. This incident spiralled me into a state of shock and panic. At this point, I was extremely scared for my safety, well-being, and life. I constantly requested him and pleaded with him to leave my room and made the excuse that I was getting late for training and had to get ready. After a few hours, I somehow managed to gather myself and my emotions and reported this incident to the sport psychologist,” the cyclist said in her complaint.

The complaint ended with a “humble request”: “take the strictest possible action against Mr R.K Sharma and not just ensure my safety but also the safety of all others around me, especially female athletes.”

The training-cum-competition trip to Slovenia was reportedly arranged to help the Indian team prepare for the Asian Track Cycling Championships, scheduled to be held in Delhi from June 18 to 22.

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