Another day, and another theory has emerged in the Narsingh Yadav dope saga. A day after Court of Arbitration’s (CAS) dismissal of all suppositions presented by the athlete and the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the governing body’s president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh trained his guns on the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) and Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Sharan said during the CAS hearing last week in Rio, where Narsingh was handed a four-year ban for failing a dope test, it emerged that NADA was tipped off by a certain SAI Sonepat centre official named Rajesh on July 4, alleging that ‘some drug abuse was going on at the centre.’ “On the basis of that complain, the dope tests were conducted again. The people who had spiked his food/drinks were not sure whether it was done properly (on June 23 & 24) before the first test on June 25, so they did it again before sending the complain letter to NADA team on July 4 for conducting another test,” Sharan said.
This was revealed only when World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) asked its Indian affiliate, the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA), the reason for conducting two dope tests on Narsingh in a short span (on June 25 and July 5), according to Sharan, who was present during the hearing.
The BJP MP said this pointed towards the involvement of ‘junior NADA officials’. “The WFI was not told about that complaint letter earlier. Although the letter was supposed to be sent to WFI, it was withheld. If we had that letter with us in Rio, our case would have been stronger. Even NADA never told us about the letter. I am sure, junior level officials of NADA are also involved,” he said.
NADA’s role has already been under scanner and its credibility has been questioned following the decision of its hearing panel to exonerate Narsingh. There are murmurs of political pressure being put on NADA to come up with a verdict that was favourable to Narsingh.
The WFI did not accept the stinging observations made by CAS, which discredit all the theories floated by Narsingh and WFI so far. The 27-year-old wrestler’s claim that his amino drink was spiked during training on either June 23 or 24 was dismissed by the CAS panel, who instead alleged that Narsingh had taken the drug in tablet form on more than one occasion. CAS based its report on the scientific observations made by sports medicine expert Christianne Ayotte, who worked on the McLaren panel that indicted Russian athletes for state-sponsored doping.
Sharan, though, said it was merely an assumption made by WADA’s ‘chemist’. “The chemist who had come there was of the opinion that Narsingh had taken the substance in tablet form. But that is just her assumption and it was not evidence enough. The main reason why Narsingh was slapped with a ban was because of the lack of criminal proceedings done by the (Sonepat) Police,” he said.
He blamed the passivity showed by Haryana police in the issue, saying it would have benefitted Narsingh’s case at CAS had there been any progress in the investigation. Sharan said they explained to CAS that criminal proceedings in India take a ‘long time’ and court cases follow a ‘longer procedure.’ “But CAS wanted to know what action has been taken against those who are guilty. Had police done their job properly and had arrested the guy (Jithesh), who had spiked food/drinks, then Narsingh would not have to face the suspension. Police has not done anything so far. Police is responsible for the situation today,” he said.
To seek PM intervention
Sharan, who had sought prime minister Narendra Modi’s intervention earlier, said he will once again meet him as well as home minister Rajnath Singh to press for a CBI inquiry into the matter. “And I guarantee that investigations would be carried out. Those who are guilty must be punished. In fact, if Narsingh is found guilty then he should be severely punished. I am again saying that it was a conspiracy,” he stressed.
WFI’s decision to back Narsingh to the hilt eventually cost India spot in the 74kg freestyle. CAS suspended Narsingh for four years a day before his bout, and there was no provision for India to name a replacement so late. Earlier, WFI had named Parveen Rana as a back-up but his name was withdrawn the moment Narsingh was given a clean chit by NADA’s disciplinary panel.
However, Sharan said they did nothing wrong in backing the wrestler. “First NADA had cleared him, followed by WFI, IOC, World body (UWW), and only after getting all the clearances from concerned organisations, he left for Rio de Janeiro. WADA should have appealed earlier, but we can’t question that. They appealed on 13th August and told the IOA and we were informed on 15th August when we reached there,” he said. “But even if we had known it on 13th, we could not have done anything. We had no time to call our lawyer. We were not prepared. But it was not a fault on our part as we had sent him only after getting all the necessary clearance.”
Narsingh, meanwhile, said he would have surely won a medal at Rio considering how the draw worked out. He, too, criticised Haryana Police for not taking the investigation forward and reiterated his demand for a CBI probe. “India has definitely lost out on a medal in 74kg because I had defeated one of the two guys who has bagged a bronze in Rio — Soner Demirtas of Turkey — in the past,” he said. “I am really doubtful whether the Sonepat police is investigating the matter thoroughly. That’s why I am urging for a CBI inquiry.”