Commonwealth Games gold-medal-winning wrestler Anita Sheoran, a witness in a sexual harassment case against the outgoing head of India’s wrestling federation, has filed her candidature in elections to replace him, reports said Monday.
Sheoran, 38, is the only female candidate vying to take over the post of president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) from Brij Bhushan Singh, who was last month charged with sexual harassment and stalking, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
Singh, 66, who is also a lawmaker for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), denies all charges and has said he is a victim of a “conspiracy”.
He has been accused by Olympic medallists and other Indian wrestlers of groping female athletes and demanding sexual favours.
Sheoran faces stiff competition in the August 12 elections, with votes cast by state wrestling federation chiefs, many of whom are reported to back candidates loyal to Singh, the Indian Express added.
Wrestlers including world champion medallist Vinesh Phogat and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik had held a weeks-long demonstration in New Delhi demanding Singh’s arrest.
Wrestling is hugely popular in rural northern India, and images of star athletes being detained as they tried to march to parliament in May went viral on social media.
They paused protests after the government said it would investigate the sexual harassment claims and announced new elections for the WFI, with Singh and members of his family prohibited from contesting.
Indian sports administration has long been male-dominated, but in December, former track and field star PT Usha was named the first woman president of the Indian Olympic Association, ushering in hopes of a more inclusive era.