It’s getting to be an Olympics of dismay for India. On Tuesday the possible participation of wrestler Narsingh Yadav at the Rio Games seemed to hit a wall as it was learnt that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the exoneration of the 74kg freestyle wrestler following his recent positive dope test in India.
The small chance that Yadav had of getting past the ever tightening noose of the world body against dope offenders has been further compromised by inefficient handling of the issue.
WADA lodged the appeal on August 13 but the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and Yadav’s lawyer, Vidushpat Singhania, only learnt about the development on Tuesday. “I only got to know of this at 4.17pm today. Beyond this I won’t be able to comment,” Singhania told HT.
A hearing was held on Tuesday at the Games Village. “The preliminary hearing is over. But since there was a short time between notice and hearing, we have asked for more time to reply and now the final hearing will take place on 18th,” India’s chef-de-mission for the Rio Olympics Rakesh Gupta told reporters in Rio.
Not on the ball
Sources within the wrestling contingent say that Gupta failed to notify the federation the moment the notice was received. WADA, anyway, would have been in touch with the Indian Olympic Association on the matter. However, this development is not out of the blue. Given that WADA has been extremely aggressive in going after dope tainted athletes in the run up to the Games, this appeal against Yadav was expected.
On their end, the wrestling federation president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is in Rio, did not bother to keep tabs on the issue.
Touch and go
As such, Yadav’s presence in the weigh in on Thursday, a day before the 74kg bouts begin, is looking most unlikely. Yadav was selected ahead of double Olympics medallist Sushil Kumar on account of petty internal politics of the federation which saw trails being jettisoned even though the rules of the world wrestling body do not allow any other wrestler to even compete in qualification tournaments once a quota has been picked up by a nation. Other wrestling powerhouses conduct national trails to decide the final team.
Two of Yadav’s samples had tested positive for the banned substance methandienone in June.
Another sample collected on July 5 also tested positive. Yadav said there was a conspiracy and he was a victim of sabotage. The fact that the drug in question leads to weight gain did lend some credence to his claim as most wrestlers fight to make their weight just before the Games. They literally starve themselves in the run up to the weigh-in.
The wrestler was cleared by the National Anti-Doping Agency’s (NADA) three-member disciplinary panel on August 2 as it felt the ingestion of the substance appeared to be a one-time incident. “…the panel concludes that the athlete deserves the benefit of Article 10.4 of the anti-doping rules of NADA 2015. As there is no fault and negligence on his part, and he is a victim of sabotage done by a competitor.”
The clean chit had raised suspicions that Narsingh was let off easily after it was revealed that the panel had sought witness depositions without even bothering to inform NADA’s lawyer Gaurang Kanth, who did not get to cross examine them. There were discrepancies in Narsingh’s affidavit too. While paragraph 17 stated that his food was contaminated, para 18 claimed his drink was laced. Under the guidelines, it is the duty of the athlete to ensure no banned substance enters his body. Yadav faces a maximum ban of four years if CAS upholds WADA’s appeal.