Days after a top Indian woman cyclist made serious allegations of sexual harassment against the national coach RK SharmaDue to his dismissal, a former star has come forward to complain that he was “slapped”, “ridiculed” and “harassed” twice by the former coach and team assistant.
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Andaman’s Deborah Harold, the current national champion and international gold medalist, told The Indian Express in an interview that she was dropped from the national team because Sharma’s assistant Gautamani Devi “thought” she was playing another female cyclist. Was in a relationship.
It is not just Harold who has leveled fresh allegations against Sharma.
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The two current national team members told The Indian Express that they have informed the Sports Authority of India’s internal complaints committee, which is hearing allegations of sexual harassment against Sharma, that he and Devi have harassed them “for consecutive years”. threatened and harassed”. affecting their performance.
When asked about the allegations, Devi said Indian Express That he did only what the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) had instructed him to do. The CFI said that Harold had never made any allegations against Sharma and Devi in the past, and that the federation acts “according to its constitution and the law of the land”. Sharma did not respond to requests from The Indian Express seeking comment.
Harold, who has been a part of India’s establishment since 2012 and trained under Sharma since 2014, said she has been left out of the team since 2018 despite being the country’s fastest cyclist in the 200m sprint and 500m time trial events. has gone. National Championships since 2019.
“She (Devi) thought I was in a relationship with another female cyclist, and harassed me a lot. He taunted me, ignored me and separated me from the rest of the cyclists. Eventually, I was kicked out of the national camp. Seriously, there was nothing like this… we are just good friends,” she said.
The 27-year-old said she was “shocked” to hear about the incidents described in a complaint to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) by a top cyclist, who alleged that Sharma forced her to stay in his room, Offered her a “post-training massage”, “forcibly” tried to seduce her, and asked her to “sleep with him” during a camp in Slovenia in May.
Harold said the “toxic environment” in the team under Sharma’s leadership “did not allow our cyclists to perform to the best of their ability”.
According to Harold, she was singled out almost every day and told to stay away from other cyclists. “The assistant coach and the head coach disturbed us mentally. It affected me so much that I started losing weight because I couldn’t eat properly… if I talked to any partner, man or woman, I would be pulled over. If I bumped into someone in the dining room, I would be yelled at. It got to a point where, in a few days, I started eating (alone) in my dorm room. I was singled out and harassed through no fault of my own,” she said.
In Sharma’s early years as coach, Harold said, he had no problems. According to him, the first incident happened in 2015, when Sharma allegedly “slapped” him. “The AC in my (hostel) room was not working. So, I went to the floor above the room of a boy from Andaman. Sir came to know and slapped me – twice. I didn’t think much about it then and I don’t think much about it now. Whatever happened, happened,” she said.
Harold claimed that the mood in the team worsened after “Gautmani’s arrival”.
She said the assistant coach “misunderstood” her friendship with another Andaman cyclist. “But it was nothing like that. She was also from Andaman so we naturally bonded well. I shared my experiences with her, trained together, and dreamed of winning a medal for India and, hopefully, competing in the Olympics. Our friendship grew stronger over time. But during all this, Madam was thinking of us from a different angle,” she said.
According to Harold, Devi “taunted” him and made “lewd remarks”, and even Sharma began to “mentally harass me”. He alleged that the coaches used “indecent” and “disappointing language” during training, accused him of “abusive injuries” and “made personal comments” on the friendship.
“We didn’t pay heed to what he said because we didn’t do anything,” he said. Who were they to judge and comment on our personal lives on the basis of their assumptions?” Harold said.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Devi did not deny Harold’s allegations. “I did what the federation asked me to do. These are all old issues which are re-emerging now, I was working in the interest of the country,” she said.
Asked about Harold’s allegation that he was dropped from the team because of a misunderstanding about his friendship with another cyclist, Devi said: “It was not in my hands. Who am I? Just a coach who works under the federation… I have nothing in hand. I do what the federation tells me to do.”
Asked about the identity of the CFI officer who directed him in the matter, Devi said: “These are all old issues, what did he say… No rider should blame anyone like this. One Athlete likes a coach if we agree with him. As soon as we scold him, we become his enemy. That’s why Indian athletes don’t succeed. Only those who listen to the coach win medals in Olympics.
CFI general secretary Maninder Pal Singh said: “Deborah Harold never informed nor did she make any complaint to the federation against RK Sharma or Gautamani Devi as alleged by them. Team selection is not in the hands of a single individual, it is purely performance based and is done through an open selection test conducted by the selection committee in a fair and transparent manner. Deborah never took up the issue with the federation, which she is now accusing.”
When asked about Devi’s reaction, Singh said: “The federation is not aware of what Gautamani Devi has informed you, however, you are informed that the affairs of the federation are governed by its constitution and the country’s is run in accordance with the law.”
“Annoyed” and “disappointed” that his performance was affecting, Harold stopped training under Sharma – “the one who stopped talking to me” – in 2018 and took endurance from the sprint to revive his career. turned into events. From that year, he was not selected for India. “I hope that after this unfortunate incident involving another young cyclist, there will be a change in the culture.”