News of Narsingh Yadav and Sandeep Tulsi Yadav both failing dope tests came like a kick to the collective gut of the Sports Authority of India’s Kandivali campus.
The two wrestlers are the centre’s most decorated grapplers, with Narsingh having won multiple medals at the world stage like the World Championships bronze last year and the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold. Sandeep, on the other hand, won a bronze medal at the world championships in 2013 — a rare medal for India in the Greco Roman category at the world stage.
The wrestling hall at SAI Kandivali is embellished by multiple posters of Narsingh and Sandeep kissing their medals or running with the Tricolour after an international conquest. There’s also the odd banner of Sushil Kumar in one corner staring angrily out of the poster.
The twin failed dope tests sapped the morale at the centre so much that coaches had to have a small counselling session with the 30-odd grapplers training at the centre on Monday.
With the main wrestling coach Jagmal Singh away at Sonepat, GS Sangha and Ajay Singh have been in charge of the grapplers.
“Since all of us were demoralised in the morning training session, coaches sat us down before the evening session and counselled us on the need to focus on our own training. They tried their best to raise our spirts. In fact, they pointed out that the incident was a reminder that we should always keep our guard up when we attend national camps in the future from now on,” said a wrestler who is a close confidant of Narsingh.
“The simple logic is, why will someone take a drug which was last relevant 20 years ago that too so few days before an Olympics? Narsingh was a sure-shot contender to win at Rio. Now that’s gone,” lamented Vivek Yadav, an 85kg Greco Roman wrestler, who even accompanied the Indian team to their trip to Georgia in April earlier this year.
Wrestlers at the campus were shocked by Narsingh’s dope test result but were speechless by Sandeep’s result.
“The fact that there is some foul play involved is obvious as Sandeep had no real motive to take substance at this point. He was not going to participate in any upcoming competition. So why would he do it?” asked one wrestler.
The negative result, which will mean a four-year ban from the sport, has cast a question mark over the wrestling future of Sandeep, who is Narsingh’s roommate at SAI’s campus in Mumbai and his closest confidant in the sport.
Jagmal had previously revealed how Sandeep had almost quit the sport before he won the bronze medal at the world championships in 2013.
Incidentally, the 28-year-old started out as a freestyle wrestler but switched to Greco Roman because Jagmal did not think he could match Sushil Kumar, who competed in the same weight class at the time.