The sordid saga of Narsingh Yadav

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Narsingh Yadav

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.

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