We all loved this story — the small town boy made good. And with the predictability which accompanies many such heartening stories, there does not look like there will be a happy ending. The Punjab police has confirmed that between November 2012 and February 2013 boxers Vijender Singh and Ram Singh, took heroin 12 and five times respectively, disproving Vijender’s claim that he had no association with drug peddlers Anoop Singh Khalon and Rocky. The police base their charge on Vijender’s mobile phone records. And to add to the suspicions, the boxer has refused to provide blood samples.
This is a real fall for a national sporting hero, recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2009 and the Padma Shri in 2010. To top it all, Vijender is a DSP with the Haryana Police, a custodian of the law which he now seems to have broken.
According to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), heroin is a narcotic that is prohibited in the duration of competitions. Irrespective of whether or not heroin is a banned drug under the anti-doping guidelines, the abuse of this drug for recreational purposes often leads to addiction and in extreme cases, fatality. A sportsman of Vijender’s calibre could not have been unaware of the damage this drug could do to his career. While there is no excuse for what he seems to have done, the authorities cannot escape blame. There should have been functioning institutional mechanisms to conduct random testing on boxers for drugs, whether recreational or performance-enhancing. The International Boxing Association’s ban on the Indian Boxing Federation (IABF) has further put the careers of many boxers in jeopardy.
According to National Anti-Doping Agency director-general Mukul Chatterjee, the last time Vijender gave his blood sample for testing was in July 2012. The boxing authorities should have been more regular in testing. This would not only have helped spot errant boxers but would also have acted as a deterrent. The 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist, a poster boy of the advertising world, will also fall in the eyes of the youth for whom he had become an icon.