At four in the evening on Sunday, Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, director sports, Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Jalandhar requested to meet all swimmers present at the venue of the All-India Inter-University swimming meet.
“He apologised to everyone for the way the event had been handled,” explained Kushagra Rawat, a student of the Delhi University and the 400m freestyle national record holder. “After that he sat behind all the judges for the races to make sure there would be no fudging of results.”
On Saturday, the second day of the four-day meet, swimmers from outside colleges decided to boycott the event after race results were blatantly being changed to benefit the host team — false starts by the host team swimmers were being considered legal and timings, which were being recorded manually instead of the usual use of the automatic touchpads, were changed to declare LPU swimmers as winners.
The seven-member team from the Jain University in Bangalore, which includes multiple Khelo India gold-medallist Likith SP and Srihari Natraj, who holds five different national records, eventually decided to return to back to their college.
The discrepancies were eventually brought to the notice of the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju, who tweeted that he is looking into the matter and the “Director General of Sports Authority of India is in touch with AIU (Association of Indian Universities) officials.”
Rijiju looking into the issue
In another post, Rijiju stated: “I would like to make it very clear; All organisations must ensure integrity of Sports. Transparency, fairness and equity in the sport world is a basic condition necessary to enhance opportunities for everyone to participate. There should be no scope for manipulation.”
Following the protests and Rijiju’s intervention, the AIU issued a letter to the host university asking for the officials responsible for the changed results be relieved from duty and “immediately suspend the students from all the events who were involved in deception.”
The letter further stated that it was attached with proof of the “manipulations in performance of swimmers.”
Subsequently, the LPU made the desired changes. “The original timings were declared from the races that happened on the first two days and the rightful winners were announced,” said Rawat, who had won the 400m freestyle, but was declared second based on the changed timings. “All races from today onwards would have results declared immediately and fairly, which is something that had not been happening at all.”
The LPU also went further to suspend their swimmer Sahil Chopra, who had been benefiting from the doctored results.
“Two officials were responsible for getting the results from the pool and depositing with the results desk. These two officials are not of our university and were hired for the meet, but they have been suspended along with the two swimmers Sahil and Abhay from the meet,” Kumar told The Indian Express.
“Unlike athletics, a false start in swimming is not stopped and the decision is taken after the race. Initially, Sahil was declared the winner and later as we got to know the discrepancy, we rectified the results and posted the correct results. We have started the pending events today evening and the remaining finals of the day will also be held today evening.”