Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Vijender Singh and his fellow international boxer Ram Singh began using heroin "for fun" and obtained the drug free of cost -"two grams each, at least four times" - from the now-arrested NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon since December.
But even as Ram shared details of their gexperimenth in an interview with HT on Saturday, he insisted that neither he nor Vijender knew their friendh Kahlon was into the illicit drug trade.
Thursday's seizure of 26kg heroin from the Zirakpur house of Kahlon - arrested with accomplice Kulwinder Singh Rocky on March 3 - put the boxers under scanner as Kahlon named them as his "clients".
But Ram, who is being questioned by the police, told HT, "After the arrest of Kahlon, we found out that he was a peddler. It struck me that he may have wanted us to become addicts and exploit our stature... Vijender called me after Kahlon's arrest... we thanked God for saving us."
Patiala resident Ram has been a roommate of Bhiwani native Vijender at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, for the past about six years. Vijender is a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Shri awardee.
Though he was cagey about details, Ram said he knew Kahlon since 2007 "after a social meeting" and would visit his Zirakpur house "occasionally, once or twice a month".
But Vijender's acquaintance with Kahlon was just a year old, he said. "In the past two-and-a-half months, both of us procured three-four doses of heroin from Kahlon. Each dose was not more than two grams and we used to inhale not more than half a gram at one go. It was just for fun."
The tryst began after Ram, in December 2012, saw Kahlon consume opium. "I asked him to give a bit to me. He told me that he could even give me the "mother of opium".
Later, Kahlon's servant slipped into my pocket a small piece of paper with something inside." It was heroin.
Ram said he took the first dose alone, which turned into a near accident as it caused "massive problems" (vomiting and pain).
"It was an overdose."
When Vijender came to Patiala in January, he also took heroin in a small quantity "but nothing happened to him".
After that, the duo visited Kahlon's Zirakpur house at least four times in the past two months to get heroin, said Ram.
"Vijender and I consumed the drug together in our vehicle on the way to the training centre."
He recalled one time when he and Vijender were coming back from Delhi after a TV programme and went to Kahlon"s house to collect the heroin dose.
On another occasion, "we went straight from Chandigarh airport to Zirakpur to get the dose".
It was February 26-27, Ram said, when both of them took the last dose together.
"Vijender",he said, gdeveloped a liking for the drug".
"I told Vijender he has to become a film star, a minister, and has to do a lot of boxing, that we should stop consuming this drug. But we consumed it for fun mostly on Saturdays. We are not addicted...Vijender used to say the drug was not good for us."
Ram insisted they never took part in any competition after consuming heroin: "Neither did we know that it was such a deadly drug that could be detected in a dope test."