The National Rifle Association of India wants to protect its Olympic-bound shooters from exploitation and distractions. India’s shooters have garnered a record 15 quota places for the Tokyo Games next year and NRAI president Raninder Singh has said that the shooters will not be allowed to sign any new commercial deals without the association’s permission and the parents will also have to sign a bond that no exploitation will be done for “financial gains.”
Wary of a repeat of India’s performance from the Rio Olympics in 2016 when India had 12 shooters competing but returned empty-handed, Singh wants the shooters to adhere to the new guidelines.
“Those who have signed the contract will have to unsign them or I will take them to court,” Singh said. “We’ll go and get a stay. I will go as a national federation and say my child is being exploited.”
The Indian shooting contingent includes several young athletes including four teenagers who have performed exceptionally well.
Singh said that shooting needs to win at least four medals from the Tokyo Games if they want to keep this sport alive.
“Our sport will be shut. The government is spending Rs 30 crore a year,” he said. “Nobody will keep backing it like this if we go like Fanney Khan and return empty-handed.”
“My neck is on the block. I promised we would recover from Rio. We have worked damn hard to get here. Everything is on the line. We have to make sure we apply our minds and prepare for the last 10 months.”
Protect the athlete
Citing examples from the past, Singh said that shooters need to be protected and bringing the code of conduct for sponsorship deals is part of that.
“They can’t think that they can go off doing what [trap shooter] Ronjan Singh Sodhi did – start earning before, and believing he had won the gold medal before he reached London [Olympics] even,” Singh said.
“I will even ask the families – father and mother – to sign a bond that you are responsible for this athlete, you cannot misuse this athlete’s standing for financial gain.”
Though he did not name any shooter, he did cite the example of a “world number one, 16-year-old boy” who signed a contract this year with a talent management company that was not in his interest.
“One particular athlete who has signed a contract with some social media site for Rs 2.5 lakh,” he said. “He is number one in the world. Is that justifiable? There are number 15s in the world who are earning Rs 55-60 lakh a year. Why? Because the poor chap doesn’t know as he comes from a humble background. He is a 16-year-old. The parents are farmers... they may not be aware.”
“I am not saying you don’t sign a sponsorship deal. But I want to make sure you don’t sell yourself for Rs 50,000 and you sell yourself for Rs 50 lakh. You come to us, take our permission and then sign it. I am not a communist, I believe in the free market.”
Train in Delhi
The other development that the NRAI president stressed upon was the training schedule of the shooters. No shooters, according to Singh, will be allowed to train outside of the country. The NRAI also plans to hire mentors – former Olympians or world champions – for the shooters.
“They will all train in New Delhi,” he said. “Nobody is going to Japan, China, Switzerland... nobody is going anywhere. You can go for ammo testing, grips, change of barrel. But the athlete can bring whoever they want and train in New Delhi. If they want to train at their home, we don’t mind. We will keep track of everything they are doing.”
The NRAI will meet with the shooters and coaches after the National Championships, scheduled to be held in December.