As things stand, Yogeshwar Dutt won’t get his bronze medal from the London Olympics upgraded to gold. While the news is a bit of a disappointment for a country where Olympic medals are a premium and gold medals a rarity, the wrestler does not feel he lost out in the confusing episode surrounding retrospective dope tests and medal upgrades that has played out over the past two weeks.
The United World Wrestling (UWW), the sport’s world governing body, clarified on Tuesday that the gold medallist from the 2012 Games, Toghrul Asgarov of Azerbaijan, has not committed any dope violation.
The confirmation by UWW put to rest speculation over the possibility of a double upgrade for Dutt, who is likely to be given the silver medal after Russian Besik Kudukhov, who died in a car crash in 2013, was reported to have tested positive for a banned substance.
Dutt was more relieved than sad to hear that a fellow wrestler has been cleared of wrongdoing. It isn’t that the wrestler didn’t want to win gold or silver at the Games where he fought his heart out to win bronze. But Dutt also knows the pain and hardships that go into winning a gold medal at the Olympics and the close nature of contests there.
When approached by HT soon after UWW announced through a tweet that Asgarov was cleared, Dutt responded by congratulating the Azerbaijan wrestler, who also won gold in Rio in the 65kg category.
“I am happy that the gold stays with him (Asgarov) as he was the winner in London. One works really hard to win a medal, so a clean chit is good for him,” said Dutt. “I had won bronze and that will stay with me. I don’t support those who dope but I don’t want to get any benefit from someone failing.”
Dutt had earlier said that it would be great if the authorities allowed Kudukhov to keep the silver medal as it would be a dishonour to the deceased wrestler as well as his family to have the medal taken away.
Dutt’s words encompass what sport and sportsmanship stand for. Medals are valued in the sporting arena—the greatest of them the Olympic Games. But beyond the glitter, windfall and the awards that follow, a medal exemplifies the fulfilment of a lifelong quest.
Any sportsperson would want that quest to bear fruit on the biggest global platform, while he or she is giving their best. In wrestling, that would mean pushing oneself to overcome the technical guile and physical prowess of the opponent on the mat under high stakes.
Dutt displayed that during his bronze-medal bout against Ri Jong-Myong of North Korea in London, where he executed the now famous phittle (ankle lace) lock and roll to perfection and win his prize. That medal, and the endearing image of an exhausted Dutt — bearing a swollen right eye with pride and smiling with the medal around his neck — is what comes to one’s mind when we think of the champion.
That image gives closure to Dutt’s quest and not a gold or silver that he could have won by default just because another champion wrestler made a wrong choice.
Asgarov, who won gold in Rio as well, is a joy to watch for a wrestling neutral. With double Olympic medals he is well on his way to greatness. If he has doped, and gets caught, that would be a big body blow for the sport. Dutt knows that. The wrestling fraternity knows that. And they are all relieved that for now, the champion has been cleared.
For the Indian fans, there is every reason to cheer for our champion, Dutt, who fought his heart out to win a medal for the country, and displayed greater heart to suggest that it is not the colour of the medal but the ethics of sport that should prevail.
Let’s celebrate that ethical triumph as it is much more valuable than gold in an era where gamesmanship is getting more and more footing over sportsmanship.