Two-year ban on rower Dattu Bhokanal lifted
The RFI had banned Bhokanal, who was a member of the men’s quadruple sculls team that won gold at 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, for pulling out of the single sculls race midway earlier in the Games.Updated: Jan 23, 2020 22:58 IST
Asian Games gold medallist rower and Olympian Dattu Baban Bhokanal’s two-year ban, imposed on him on April 30, 2019, has been lifted by the Rowing Federation of India (RFI).
This paves the way for India’s top rower to participate in the Olympic Qualification Regatta in April.
The RFI had banned Bhokanal, who was a member of the men’s quadruple sculls team that won gold at 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, for pulling out of the single sculls race midway earlier in the Games.
On Thursday, RFI president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo informed the sports ministry that the ban has been lifted with effect from today on the advice of the RFI Athletes’ Commission.
“The rower has been informed accordingly and has been advised to prepare for the forthcoming Olympic Qualification Regatta to be held at Chungju, South Korea from April 27-30 this year,” the RFI president said in the mail.
The RFI itself was derecognized by the Union Sports Ministry on Tuesday for violating the 2011 Sports Code, and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has been tasked with forming a committee to discharge the functions of the rowing body.
Bhokanal, who was the lone rower representing India in the 2016 Rio Olympics, was in the wilderness for over eight months and his ban was set to end on April 30, 2021.
He is employed with the Indian Army and is posted at the CME Army Rowing Node near Pune.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Bhokanal said he was happy to be back in action but also feeling “hurt” with the treatment meted out to him.
When banning the army rower, the RFI had acted on a report by the coaches and manager of the rowing team.
In the show cause notice issued to Bhokanal a few months after the Asian Games, the RFI had also alleged that the rower had nominated an unknown woman as a coach, who got a cash award of ~12 lakh from the Maharashtra government for participating at the Jakarta Games.
In his response, Dattu claimed he stopped rowing in the race because he was unwell and had an accident earlier in the day when his boat had overturned.
“My boat overturned on the day of the race. My lungs were filled with water. I tried my best but it was impossible to breathe. Considering the next day’s MX4 race, I did not want to let down my team. I had to regretfully give up the race,” Dattu had said in response to the show case notice.
As for the coach he had nominated, he attributed it to a misinterpretation of rules. “There was no intent of misleading/misuse of provision... I have no relationship with the lady and I assure you that I will never ever commit financial fraud,” he had said.
RFI had rejected both his explanations.
The matter came to the fore once again when Bhokanal approached the IOA athletics commission.
In January, IOA president Narinder Batra wrote a letter to the RFI, asking for the details of the ban, including the rules that were followed to determine the length of the ban.