As Vinesh Phogat was stretchered off from the wrestling arena to a waiting ambulance after suffering a freak injury, Indian contingent’s chief medical officer (CMO) Pawandeep Singh joined her in the tunnel. Pawandeep happens to be a radiologist, not a sports medicine doctor.
Incidentally, the second doctor with the Indian team in Rio, Col RS Negi, is also a radiologist. Negi has never attended any national championship, nor any National Games, and not even an inter-Services meet.
Pawandeep, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials say, has the experience of being the chief medical officer of the South Asian Games, and they claim he is also IOA’s medical officer although there is no mention of it on IOA’s website.
Pawandeep’s father Tarlochan Singh is a IOA vice-president. Negi, on the other hand, is a distant cousin and close friend of IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta.
But even before Vinesh’s injury during her 48kg quarterfinal against China’s Yanan Sun two situations had arisen demanding the CMO to be at hand to deal with the emergency.
When OP Jaisha fainted in the course of the marathon, coach Nikolai Snesarev had to scuffle with doctors to demand medical attention for his ward. Also when Saina Nehwal aggravated her injury, and suffered inflammation of the knee, she needed to consult the International Olympic Committee (IOC) doctors not only to get an all-clear but also because these ‘sports physicians’ had not been part of any camps and were virtually unknown to most athletes.
Hockey team vice-captain SV Sunil was treated by the team’s physio Shrikant Iyengar when he suffered a wrist injury during India’s group stage game against Canada. Iyengar, who has been with the team for close to a decade, accompanied Sunil for scans while Pawandeep wasn’t present, according to sources.
Some athletes and coaches say Pawandeep’s standard response to most complaints of injuries has been a dose of Combiflam. But his father Tarlochan hit out at the allegations, saying his son isn’t illiterate and is a respected doctor.
“He is chairman of IOA’s medical commission and held similar positions at the SAFF Games. Besides, he is also a member of Commonwealth Games Medical Commission. He is a genuine doctor,” he stresses. “He has sports medicine qualification from Germany. Plus, he has also been the captain of India’s Polo team. Why IOA has taken a radiologist is something the federation’s president or secretary can answer since they take the decisions.”
Negi’s posting is at Base Hospital, Guwahati, and he has earlier served in Delhi as a radiologist. He was then posted on the INSH Ashwani in Mumbai before finally at Guwahati – all the times as radiologist. Usually Army Institute of Sports, Pune, sends doctors accustomed to this job, but none was picked from there.
Instead, Mehta wrote to the Services Sports Control Board, asking them to relieve Negi from July 24 to August 23. Negi and Mehta both hail from Uttarakhand. “We are pleased to inform you that Col (Dr) RS Negi , MD, DNB, FRCR has been nominated as Doctor for the Indian Contingent,” Mehtra wrote in a letter dated May 23, addressed to the SSCB secretary.
Mehta couldn’t be reached for a comment and message sent to him went unanswered.