Taking serious note of boxer L Sarita Devi’s decision to refuse the bronze medal during the Incheon Asian Games medals ceremony, the world governing body for the sport, AIBA, on Wednesday provisionally barred the 29-year-old Manipuri from competing in future competitions.
The AIBA also barred the chief national coach, Gurbakhsh Singh Sandhu, foreign coach BI Fernandez and India’s chef-de-mission at the Incheon Games, Adille J Sumariwalla, from taking part in AIBA competitions until further notice.
India's Sarita Devi gestures towards silver medallist South Korea's Park Jina as the latter tries to persuade Devi to accept her bronze medal during the medal ceremony for the women’s light 60kg division boxing at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. (AP Photo)
The AIBA’s decision to suspend the two senior coaches is likely to hit the sport in the country hard, but it is unlikely to have an effect on Sumariwalla, who is the president of the Athletics Federation of India and has nothing to do with running boxing affairs.
In a statement put up on its website, the world governing body for the sport said, “The AIBA executive committee bureau decided today to provisionally suspend Laisham Sarita Devi, her coaches (Gurbakhsh Singh Sandhu, Blas Iglesias Fernandez and Sagar Mai Dhayal) as well as Adille J Sumariwalla, chef-de-mission (India), who were all present at the Incheon 2014 Asian Games, and not to allow any of them to participate at all levels of AIBA competitions, events and meetings until further notice.
“This case has been sent for review by the AIBA disciplinary commission, and it means that Sarita Devi, the above mentioned coaches as well as Sumariwalla will not be allowed to participate in the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, Jeju 2014.”
Sarita marked her protest against a controversial semifinal decision of the judges, by refusing to wear the medal around her neck during the medals ceremony. She then walked up to the South Korean boxer, silver-medallist Ji-Na Park, and handed over the medal to her in protest against the ‘biased’ decision.
The entire episode didn’t go down well with the AIBA technical delegate at Incheon, David B Francis, who wrote in his report that the outburst was pre-planned.
In his report submitted to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) on the day of the incident Francis said, “The whole incident looked like a well-planned scenario by her (Sarita) and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition. In this regard, as the technical delegate, I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement.”
Though the Indian team had submitted a protest letter, it was rejected by Francis because, as per the rules, protests are only allowed against the referees’ decisions and not against the judges.
After the episode, Sarita also wrote an apology letter to AIBA. But the world body decided to suspend the boxer as well as the coaches. “We have received the suspension notice through Boxing India. We have been given a seven-day time period to file a reply,” said Sandhu. “Hopefully the matter will be resolved.”