With less than 24 hours to go for his first fight, Indian grappler Narsingh Yadav’s joy turned into ashes in his mouth as he struggled to hide the embarrassment following the four-year ban imposed upon him by the highest authority on legal issues in sports.
It all began on June 25 when Dhirendra Singh, a medical officer, collected Yadav’s urine sample for dope tests. Prior to that day, Yadav had never failed a dope test, and was vouched for by many in the circuit as a hard-working and honest fellow. His confidence was reasonable when he said he was willing to provide blood samples as well, during the urine test.
A few days later, amidst his preparations for the Olympics, Yadav’s world came crashing down. The dope test had turned out positive for a banned substance, methandienone.
Flagged in 2001, methandienone belongs to the category of drugs that are popular among bodybuilders for its weight-increasing effects which occurs as a consequence of water retention in the body. Yadav had to reduce his weight in order to compete in the 74 kg category in the Olympics and it was, therefore, unclear why he would consume a drug that held the risk of disqualifying him from his category.
Allegations of sabotage soon filled the air, with Yadav garnering several followers of that notion. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) themselves came to the fore with claims of foul play, indicating not-so-subtly at India’s most decorated wrestler, Sushil Kumar.
It may be recalled here, that Kumar and Yadav had been locked in an ugly legal battle for representation of the country at Rio with the court ultimately ruling the case in the latter’s favour just a few days before the collection of urine samples.
With claims of conspiracy amassing huge backing from the crowd – even compatriot Yogeshwar Dutt came out in Yadav’s support – the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) ended up absolving him of all charges.
Although Yadav now looked all set to compete in the Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) decision to appeal against NADA’s revocation of the ban cast a shadow on his chances.
Had Yadav been kept out of the Olympic contingent, there’s a possibility that WADA might not have appealed. But in an unnecessary and irresponsible risk undertaken by the IOA and WFI, Yadav was persisted with – a move that has now ruined his career for good.
Article 2.1 of WADA’s rules clearly states: “It is each athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers found to be present in their samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation.”
Hence, with no video footage to show as evidence and certainly no confession by the saboteur, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) overturned NADA’s decision and suspended Yadav for a period of four years, effective immediately, thus spelling an unfortunate end to his medal quest at Rio.
According to the CAS, “There was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional.”
As another sordid saga comes to an end denying the country of any representation in the 74 kg category, a wrestling fan is left to speculate if anyone is truly answerable for this humiliating chapter in Indian sports.
It’s always interesting to see how each host city handles an Olympics.
I’m not talking about the big issues like venues or transport, more the way in which the locals buy in to hosting the largest sporting showcase on the planet.
This is the fourth Olympic Games I’m covering as a journalist so I have a few with which to compare this latest edition in Rio. It wasn’t until a colleague mentioned it the other day, though, that I noticed something unique about these Games.
If you walk around the city, anywhere outside of a Games venue, you wouldn’t really know that the Olympics had come to town. Sure, inside the venues or on the way to them, the Brazilian crowds are passionately supporting their own athletes, draped in flags or wearing green or yellow clothing, but in the regular streets you don’t really feel it.
Usually hosts go overboard with cashing in on all things Olympics. There are Olympic displays in shop windows, Olympic supermarket specials on everything from frozen food to deodorant with Olympic flavoured ice-cream on offer on the street corners. Not Rio, though.
That may have something to do with the current economic climate in the country and the fact that many were against hosting the Games from the off. In some cases, people are intentionally boycotting Rio 2016.
That's two out of three for Bolt. Just the relay to go... pic.twitter.com/FQTVqv3mr6— Karien Jonckheere (@KarienJ) August 19, 2016
There is one area that bucks the trend, however, and that’s the iconic Copacabana. The famous 4km stretch of beach and the surrounding streets have well and truly caught the Olympic fever (this should not be confused with a Zika-carrying mosquito).
I decided to walk the entire stretch from Fort Copacabana, where the men’s triathlon took place on Thursday, down to the beach volleyball venue and finally I felt my first bit of Olympic spirit outside of an official venue.
Vendors are selling flags, t-shirts and even gold medals. Buskers were dotted all the way down the seafront which was packed with locals and tourists enjoying the festive vibe and posing for photos in front of the Olympic rings on the beach.
You can’t help feeling just a little bit inspired when you’re swept up in it all – and cheesy as it may be, I have to admit to humming a little Barry Manilow as I walked…
The World No10 produced a stellar show of determination to oust the All England Open champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, 21-19, 21-10 in 49 minutes.
With this, the 21-year-old has assured India a second medal less than 24 hours after wrestler Sakshi Malik ended the country’s drought by taking bronze.
Sindhu becomes only the fifth Indian woman to clinch an Olympic medal, following in the footsteps of weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (Sydney, 2000), shuttler Saina Nehwal, boxer MC Mary Kom (both London, 2012) and Malik.
All four of those women had to be satisfied with bronze and by reaching the final, Sindhu has ensured that she would be the first Indian woman to claim either silver or gold.
The Hyderabad girl will face the World No. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain in the title showdown on Friday.
Sindhu has a 2-4 head-to-head record against the reigning world champion and last beat her in October at the Denmark Open.
The semi-final contest was by no means an easy task for the two-time World Championships bronze medallist.
Having lost the last three times to the Japanese, the Indian didn’t live up to her underdog status, taking control of the match with a mixture of aggression and guile.