Paralympics: India suspends paralympic chief over poor facilities

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) on Tuesday suspended its president Rajesh Tomar after an outcry about a lack of toilets, showers and beds for athletes at a national meet last month.

Some 600 disabled athletes who took part in India's national paralympic championships outside New Delhi were housed in under-constructed buildings without adequate basic facilities, while participants complained of a lack of food and drinking water.

Federal sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal sought a detailed report after television footage showed the difficulties faced by the athletes, prompting the committee to swing into action.

A statement on the body's official website said its executive committee had suspended Tomar and formed a three-member inquiry panel headed by a retired high court judge.

The Paralympic Committee of India also decided to start criminal and civil proceedings against Tomar, the statement added.

Tomar had earlier blamed the government for not providing a proper venue to host the event. "I had approached the sports ministry to provide their facilities, but the Sports Authority of India refused, saying their venues were being used by able-bodied athletes," Tomar was quoted as saying in media reports.

Media reports said the buildings lacked facilities for the disabled. Footage showed one athlete trying to crawl down a flight of stairs on his hands and knees. Other footage showed athletes sleeping on the floor of their hostel and sharing a filthy bathroom sink.

The incident is another blot on sports administration in India following the chaotic organisation of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 amid corruption charges and delays in construction.

The Indian Olympic Association was suspended for more than a year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2012 for electing tainted officials to top posts.

IOC president Thomas Bach is expected to visit India later this month amid media speculation that the country may bid to host the Summer Games in future.