Vinesh Phogat has accused WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment ©Getty Images

Three-time Commonwealth Games champion Vinesh Phogat has accused Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh of sexual harassment, with the national team hosting a protest against him.

Phogat is one of her country's most significant athletes, having won three consecutive gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, as well as two bronze medals at the World Wrestling Championships.

She said speaking up has made her fear for her life.

Her accusations extend past Singh - who is also a Member of Parliament for the Bharatiya Janata Party, the party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi - and implicate coaches too.

"Women wrestlers have been sexually harassed at national camps by coaches and also the WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan," said Phogat to Indian media.

"Some of the coaches appointed at national camps have been sexually harassing women wrestlers for years. 

"The WFI President is also involved in sexual harassment."

IOA President PT Ushu promised an investigation into the allegations ©Getty Images
IOA President PT Ushu promised an investigation into the allegations ©Getty Images

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President PT Usha said the welfare of the nation's athletes was her "priority" in a statement today.

"As IOA President, I've been discussing the current matter of wrestlers with the members and for all of us the welfare and well being of the athletes is the top most priority of IOA," said Usha on Twitter.

"We request athletes to come forward and voice their concerns with us.

"We will ensure a complete investigation to ensure justice. 

"We also have decided to form a special committee to deal with such situations that may arise in the future, for swifter action."

Phogat was joined by her national team-mates at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, one of the most significant gathering places in India.

Sakshi Malik was among the supporters of Vinesh Phogat's accusations ©Getty Images
Sakshi Malik was among the supporters of Vinesh Phogat's accusations ©Getty Images

Sakshi Malik, the country's only female Olympic medallist, corroborated the claims - promising to hand over the names of victims to those doing an investigation into the matters.

"We have just come to save them," said Malik.

"We are fighting for them, when the time comes, we will speak up. 

"We will give the names of those who have been exploited to whoever is doing the probe."

Bajrang Punia, a four-time world medallist and Olympic bronze medallist from Tokyo 2020, was among the 23 protesters too.

Singh dismissed the accusations made against him in response to the protest.

"Is anyone saying that the WFI has sexually harassed a wrestler?" said Singh.

"Only Vinesh has said it. 

"Has anyone come forward and said that they personally have been sexually harassed? 

"Even if one wrestler comes forward and says that she has been sexually harassed, that day I can be hanged."

Vinesh Phogat is one of India's most-decorated wrestlers ©Getty Images
Vinesh Phogat is one of India's most-decorated wrestlers ©Getty Images

Phogat went as far as suggesting the national camps took place in Lucknow because the WFI President has a house there, making it "easy to exploit the girls".

She added she feared for her life for speaking up on the matter.

"They have become very powerful. 

"I have spoken today and I don't know if I will be alive tomorrow because of this. 

"I know about 10-20 girls who have been exploited in the national camp over the past 10 years. 

"Those girls are scared because of their family background, they can't fight against them because they are not powerful. 

"I can do it because I don’t mind if they stop me from wrestling - I have a house, I have food. 

"I am here because I don't want the future generations to go through this sadness and pain. 

"We have only wrestling as our livelihood, they are taking away our livelihood. 

"Our only option is to die, so might as well do good and die."

Olympian Anshu, world junior silver medallist Sonam Malik and Punia's wife and Vinesh's sister Sangeeta Phogat - who is also a national-ranked wrestler - were present as well.

Swati Maliwal, chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women, confirmed a notice was issued against Singh with the Deputy Commissioner of Police and Sports Secretary being asked to look into the allegations.

WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar went to speak to the protestors on behalf of Singh, but was unable to come to an agreement.

Not present at Jantar Mantar was two-time Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and two-time Asian champion Divya Kakran, who posted now-deleted videos to Twitter, backing the WFI President.

"Since morning, a lot of allegations have been made against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Saran Singh," said Kakran.

"No one is questioning those who are levelling these baseless allegations. 

"When old allegations are not working, the accusers are in search of new allegations against Sharan. 

"Since 2013, when I was 14, I have been going to camp and I attend it even now. 

"Till day, he has done nothing wrong with me or any woman for that matter. 

"Wrestlers from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are supported well by them and he makes sure that they are not discriminated against."

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