Wrestler Narsingh Yadav was cleared of doping charges by an anti-doping disciplinary panel on Monday, which said he was a victim of sabotage, but his Olympic dream rests on clearance from the sport’s global governing body and the Rio Games organisers.
Narsingh, 26, had tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid, but he pleaded innocence saying his supplements and water were spiked.
The ruling by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA)’s panel exposes the ugly side of sporting rivalry in India, which has earlier seen scandals involving mostly cricket, the most popular sport in the country.
“I am very happy and looking forward to winning a medal in the Olympics,” Narsingh said after the announcement that sparked celebrations among his supporters. Both the wrestler’s samples, taken on June 25 and July 5, had tested positive.
NADA director general Navin Agarwal told reporters that since none of Narsingh’s earlier samples had returned positive, “the panel is of the view that the one-time ingestion was not intentional”.
“Keeping in view that he was victim of sabotage, the panel exonerates the athlete from charges of anti-doping rules of NADA,” Agarwal said, reading out from a prepared statement.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), which had sent Parveen Rana’s name as replacement to the United Wrestling Federation, said it would now approach the governing body to allow Narsingh to compete at the Olympics starting August 5.
Yadav, who secured a berth at the Games by winning a bronze medal at last year’s world championships in Las Vegas, had earlier accused two wrestlers of spiking his supplements.
The panel had summoned two cooks from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) training centre at Sonepat to verify the theory of his food having been contaminated.
The sabotage theory was reinforced after the wrestler’s roommate and training partner, Sandeep Yadav, also tested positive for the same substance, metadienone.
Even before the doping allegations, Narsingh’s Olympic berth was thrown into doubt when Sushil Kumar, who won bronze in the 66kg category in Beijing in 2008 and silver in London, moved up a weight and sought a court order for a bout between the pair to determine who should go to Rio.
The Delhi high court, however, ruled against Kumar, the only Indian athlete to win two individual Olympic medals, clearing the way for Narsingh to compete in Rio.
The qualification row divided opinion in the country and Narsingh was provided police security, a rare measure for an Indian athlete, at the training centre due to possible threats.
After the NADA ruling, Sushil Kumar asked Narsingh to “go win (a medal) for me and the country”.
“It’s a great news. My support was there earlier also, even today and will remain Tomorrow (sic),” the senior Olympian tweeted.
(With agency inputs)