Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra has defended the ISSF's decision to replace three shooting events from the Olympic program with mixed-gender events. While admitting that the call was not a "popular one", Bindra said such a decision had to be taken to ensure the entire shooting program was not shelved for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
"If we did not comply to (The IOC's) agenda for 2020, there was definitely a big danger (of shooting being reduced at the Olympics)," Bindra told ESPN.
"If we decided we would just go our way and we don't care and continue the way we are, then my personal opinion is that there was perhaps a danger of us losing out. Maybe not the sport as a whole but it could mean that we would have lost a number of events. We have 15 events now but maybe they would have said we will allow you to keep only ten."
Bindra, who led the ISSF committee which recommended removing the men's 50m prone, men's 50m pistol and men's double trap from Olympic program, has received criticism from some quarters for his decision.
According to the International Olympic Association's Agenda 2020, all international sports federations are to make changes to their sport to promote gender equality by the time the Tokyo Games arrive.
Gender parity was one of 40 points mentioned in the agenda, but proved to be one on which most energy was expended. Bindra said the committee's first plan was to retain the three events that were eventually dropped.
"Our first plan was to convert the extra men's events (50m prone, 50m pistol and double trap) to mixed-team events. But when we were given the facts, there were several factors that came into play.
"You need to have some sort of base. Women's free pistol has never been shot. You can't make a completely new sport into an Olympic event. The double trap is no longer even an ISSF event because there are relatively few shooters."
Bindra said he understood why there has been criticism of the decision and that perhaps if he was on the other side, he might have reacted the same way.
"I would have reacted the same way if I didn't have any understanding of what the scenario is. It is human to react in that way. The emotions are at a high. And it is expected. When an individual has shot for 35 years for his life and his event is stopped, it is difficult. It is difficult for the older generation. The younger ones could adapt better.
"This is a scenario that is impossible to please everybody. Not everyone is going to come out of this decision happy and satisfied."
While the recommendation to drop the 50m pistol event from the Olympics might have seemed poorly timed considering there was an Indian 1-2 finish at the World Cup in Delhi, Bindra said it would have been unethical on his part to be favourable to events in which the country had done well.
"You can't bring in personal biases and personal ambitions. One has to make recommendations for the holistic good on the sport of shooting. I think the most important is that one had to do all we could do to maintain 15 events and 390 places at the Olympic Games."
Among other things that were discussed by the committee, according to Bindra, were the sustainability, universality and the cost factor associated with the sport.
"You want the sport to be practiced in every corner of the world. If the sport is only being practiced in fifteen countries, that is not what we want," he said.
In light of the observation, Bindra said the air gun events would be well supported.
"The indicators what we got from the IOC is that the air events are something that are favoured. They are definitely easier to get into. To be a world class prone shooter you need a high quality rifle. A good quality rifle costs five six seven thousand euros. Ammunition costs a lot of money. It is important to make the sport cheaper. That is an important factor to the sustainability of the sport."
While airguns might be a priority, laser ones are not. While it was in February last year that the IOC formally made the proposal on laser shooting to the ISSF, Bindra said it was unlikely to be included.
"There was only a discussion of that. The ISSF is of the unanimous opinion that it must do all it can to maintain the essence of shooting and the essence of shooting is definitely not shooting with a laser."