India faces the ultimate sanction of being kicked out of the Olympic movement unless it keeps corruption-tainted officials out of its ranks, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Bach said the IOC is prepared to withdraw recognition of the Indian Olympic Association if it fails to comply with "rules of good governance" by Tuesday, a punishment that would leave the world’s second most populous nation out of all Olympic competitions.
"It’s about the principles," Bach said. "Good governance for the IOC is a key issue. We need to be strict and to make sure the rules of good governance are being applied."
If India is thrown out, it would be the first time a country has been kicked out of the Olympic movement since South Africa was expelled for its racial segregation policies more than 40 years ago.
The Indian Olympic body is scheduled to meet Sunday in New Delhi to consider amending its constitution to meet the IOC’s directive. If there is no breakthrough, the International Olympic Committee executive board is set to recommend "de-recognition" of the Indian committee at its meeting on Tuesday in Lausanne.
"We will see if there is any last-moment movement," Bach said. "If not, then we have to consider to take the next step."
The IOC suspended the Indian body a year ago because of government interference in its election process. While many of the issues have been resolved since then, the Indians have yet to agree to the IOC demand to bar officials who have been charged with a criminal offense — an impasse which has led to the final ultimatum.
"The (Olympic) charter is clear," Bach said. "If the suspension leads to no solution, then further steps could be withdrawal of recognition."
It would be the first major ruling of the IOC board under Bach, who was elected president on Sept. 10, succeeding Jacques Rogge. Bach is the former president of Germany’s national Olympic committee.
The IOC executive board could take a preliminary decision on withdrawing recognition of India. A final ruling would go to the full IOC, which next meets in Sochi, Russia, in early February on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"Withdrawal of recognition would mean there is no NOC (National Olympic Committee) any more in India," Bach said. " That means no participation, no subsidies."
Under the current suspension, the Indian body has stopped receiving IOC funding and its officials have been banned from attending Olympic meetings and events. India’s athletes are barred from competing in Olympic events under their national flag.
Stripping India completely of IOC recognition would leave the country without any Olympic involvement. It would keep Indian athletes out of the Olympics and related events such as the Asian Games. Other international federations could also follow suit.
The IOC has given athletes from suspended nations the chance to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag. It’s unclear what options could be open to Indian athletes if their Olympic body is expelled.
"In the Olympics we would have to see whether we would find individual solutions, but they could in no way represent India," Bach said. "We always want to protect the interest of the athletes. We have to consider a way. I cannot tell you what the result will be."
The IOC said India has three athletes, including two skiers and a luger, who have qualified for the Sochi Games. Sanctions would hurt more for the Summer Olympics, which will next be held in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. India’s participation could also be affected for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept. 19-Oct. 4.
The IOC has been involved in back-and-forth discussions with India for months. The main issue stems from last year’s election of IOA secretary-general Lalit Bhanot, who had been jailed for 10 months in a corruption case related to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
The IOC has told the Indian body that anyone charged with an offense by Indian police should be barred from holding office. The Indians have proposed that the directive be limited to barring only those found guilty and sentenced to a jail term of two or more years by a court.
"This is the only remaining point." Bach said. "It’s about good governance and nothing else at this moment. All the other issues have been solved in cooperation with the NOC, with the government."
The IOC formally expelled South Africa from the Olympics in 1970. The country, which had last competed at the 1960 Olympics, returned to the fold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
In recent years, the IOC suspended the national Olympic bodies of Kuwait, Ghana and Panama for political interference, but all were later reinstated.