LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The acting head of wrestling’s world body met with IOC President Jacques Rogge on Thursday, promising to fight to retain the sport’s Olympic status and apologizing for the protest by wrestlers who have returned their medals.
Nenad Lalovic, interim FILA president, said Rogge outlined the difficult task wrestling faces in a race among eight sports seeking one vacancy on the program for the 2020 Games.
“He said that everybody has to earn their place,” Lalovic said after the 40-minute meeting at International Olympic Committee headquarters.
“I don’t see any other way” but hard work, the Serbian official acknowledged, in persuading the IOC to reverse last month’s surprise recommendation by the executive board to cut wrestling from the 2020 program.
Lalovic also apologized to Rogge for the wrestlers who have sent back their Olympic medals to the IOC in anger.
“I was the first to say that, ‘I’m very sorry that it happens,’” Lalovic said. “I strongly believe it is not good for wrestling. This is not something that is going to help us.”
Earlier Thursday, Andrzej Supron of Poland pledged to return his silver medal in the Greco-Roman lightweight division won at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Sagid Murtazaliyev of Russia and Valentin Yordanov of Bulgaria have said they would return gold medals, while two-time Olympic champion Armen Nazaryan of Bulgaria has gone on a hunger strike.
“Of course, we can’t control individual activities and we can’t stop them,” Lalovic said.
The IOC board meets May 29 in St. Petersburg, Russia, to recommend a short list of sports to be considered for inclusion in 2020. The final decision will be made by the full IOC membership at their assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A combined baseball-softball bid, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, and the martial arts of karate and wushu are the other sports vying for 2020 inclusion.
The IOC described the meeting with Lalovic as “productive.”
“A wide range of topics was discussed and the IOC looks forward to continued collaboration with FILA in the coming months and in the run-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” the Olympic body said.
FILA is seeking to harness global support for its campaign, which has brought together the United States, Russia and Iran in a rare show of unity.
FILA has appealed for wrestlers to stop their protests through a message from Russian great Alexander Karelin, newly recruited to its athletes committee.
“We would like to request each of you to redirect your passions,” the message on the FILA website stated. “We appreciate your tenacity and understand that complacency is not in your DNA.
“Nonetheless, returning your gold medal is counterproductive. Before the practice escalates, we urge you to keep your Olympic medals and celebrate your achievement.”
Karelin’s appointment is among a slate of modernizing changes FILA made since being rocked by the Feb. 12 decision. Its president, Swiss businessman Raphael Martinetti, resigned within days.
“We were sleeping on our ears,” said Lalovic, who will be a candidate in a presidential election scheduled in the coming weeks.