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Published: Tuesday February 11, 2014 MYT 4:12:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday February 11, 2014 MYT 4:12:02 PM

India returns as IOC lifts ban

India's Shiva Keshavan speeds down the ice track during the men's luge training at the Sanki sliding center in Rosa Khutor, a venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, near Sochi February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

India's Shiva Keshavan speeds down the ice track during the men's luge training at the Sanki sliding center in Rosa Khutor, a venue for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, near Sochi February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - India has returned to the Olympic fold after the IOC lifted a ban on the country's Olympic Association on Tuesday, and its athletes will now be able to march behind the Indian flag at the Sochi Games closing ceremony.

India's athletes have been competing in Sochi under the Olympic flag due to the country's suspension, imposed after the country held a 2012 Olympic association (IOA) election in which a corruption-tainted official was voted in as secretary general.

On Sunday the IOA elected a new set of officials. World Squash Federation chief N. Ramachandran was elected president with All India Tennis Association chief Anil Khanna becoming treasurer in polls which marked the exit of corruption-tainted Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot from the IOA.

"It's great news for the Indian athletes," Randhir Singh, International Olympic Committee member from India, told Reuters.

"IOA has finally realised that the Olympic Charter is supreme and you have to fall in line and follow the principles of ethics and good governance. Tainted officials have no place in IOA."

The decision marks the first time a suspension of a National Olympic Committee has been lifted during an Olympic Games, and will have an immediate impact.

Indian athletes entered the Sochi Games under the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony on February 7, and have competed as Independent Olympic Participants.

The IOC's decision means they can now compete for India and will walk behind their national flag at the closing ceremony on February 23.

To symbolically mark the lifting of the suspension and, in recognition of the three Indian athletes competing in Sochi, the Indian flag will be raised in the Olympic Village.

"I'm happy with the new IOA team. (In N. Ramachandran and Anil Khanna) you have two world class administrators," Singh added.

Newly elected IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told Reuters the news was a great start for the new team.

"I got a call from the IOC this morning confirming the ban has been lifted and I'm now waiting for a written communication. It's a great start for the new team at IOA.

"This is all the more significant as this year we have Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

"Indian athletes will be competing once again under the Indian flag. It's a great relief for us."

(Writing by Ossian Shine, additional reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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