By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - A last-minute decision by the banned Indian Olympic Association to comply with IOC orders is a good first step for the country's gradual return to the Olympic fold, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Tuesday.
In a late act of compliance on Sunday, the IOA passed an amendment to its constitution to exclude tainted officials from office.
"These (IOC) recommendations of good governance have been accepted," said Bach. "This is a major step in the right direction."
The IOA remains suspended since last year for going ahead with its December 2012 election in which Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in jail on corruption charges, was voted in as secretary general.
The IOC subsequently offered a lifeline, and a December 9 deadline, for the dithering IOA to bar all tainted officials from contesting its elections.
Bach said in order for the ban to be lifted, free and transparent elections will need to be staged but until that happens Indian athletes qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics will not be affected.
Should elections be held before the February 7-23 Games and meet IOC guidelines then the athletes will compete under the Indian flag.
If elections are held after the Games then the athletes will compete under the Olympic flag with no reference to the suspended nation.
"Now we are looking forward to the implementation of these new rules by a transparent open and democratic election in the IOA and after this we can make further considerations," Bach, who took over in September, said.
"Whether elections take place before Sochi or not Indian athletes can participate in the winter Games if they have qualified," added the German.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer)