A DAY after it emerged that he had failed a dope test, wrestler Narsingh Yadav’s hopes of participating in the Olympic Games in Rio next month were hanging on a World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) rule, which says that an athlete’s period of suspension will be eliminated if he is able to prove that he was sabotaged by a rival.
This is likely to be the line of argument from Narsingh’s legal team during a disciplinary panel hearing in the case on Wednesday, according to sources close to the wrestler. Sources said that in order to be exonerated, Narsingh will have to produce a witness who will admit to spiking the wrestler’s food with the drug to benefit his rivals.
Narsingh’s ambitions are under a cloud after he tested positive for the anabolic steroid, metadienone, in a dope test conducted by the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) on June 25. However, the 26-year-old has maintained that the failed test was the result of a conspiracy by his opponents to stop him from participating in the Olympics.
Rule 10.4 in WADA’s 2016 Code reads: “If an athlete or other person establishes in an individual case that he or she bears no fault or negligence, then the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility shall be eliminated. They will only apply in exceptional circumstances, for example, where an athlete could prove that, despite all due care, he or she was sabotaged by a competitor.”
If Narsingh manages to prove his innocence to the satisfaction of the NADA disciplinary panel, he will still have to clear another dope test before boarding the flight to Rio to ensure there is no trace of the banned substance in his body.
WATCH VIDEO: Narsingh Yadav Dope Controversy Hearing At NADA
On Monday, Narsingh’s claim of a conspiracy was backed by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh who alleged that there was an attempt last month to add an “unknown substance” to food prepared at the Sports Authority of India’s Sonepat centre.
Narsingh and his roommate Sandeep Yadav, the other wrestler who failed the dope test, were based at the SAI centre to participate in the preparatory camp for the Rio Games starting August 5.
WFI chief Singh said that Narsingh, in his written complaint, has named a fellow wrestler, a coach and the SAI official in charge of the Sonepat centre, and accused the trio of conspiring against him, leading to the failed dope test. “We won’t be naming anyone right now since the case is still being heard by NADA,” Singh said.
Singh also accused SAI of ignoring an incident where an alleged attempt was made to tamper with food prepared at the hostel mess. He claimed that an unidentified person had entered the kitchen in the absence of the cook and added “a powder” in the dal prepared for the athletes.
The cook tried to intercept the person but he ran away, said Singh. “Everything that was cooked that afternoon had to be thrown away because the cook wasn’t sure what was added to the meal while he was gone. So there were suspicions,” said Singh alleging that the incident “was kept under wraps by the SAI official in charge of the centre”.
A sting operation by TV channels also purportedly showed kitchen staff at the centre talking about the incident, which Singh had highlighted, to prove Narsingh’s innocence.
According to Singh, the incident occurred on June 5, when the court case between Narsingh and Sushil Kumar for the lone Olympic spot in the 74-kg category was nearing conclusion. Sushil’s plea for a selection trial was eventually dismissed by the Delhi High Court, which paved the way for Narsingh to take part in his second Olympics.
SAI director general Injetti Srinivas responded to the allegations levelled by Narsingh and Singh by saying that he will act against the official named in the letter only if there is a formal complaint. “I cannot respond to wild and totally unsubstantiated allegations. If we receive a formal complaint, we will respond,” Srinivas said.
Singh, meanwhile, said the federation believes that Narsingh is innocent. “Injustice has happened to him and we are hopeful he will get justice. I will try my best to help Narsingh get out of this problem so that he can represent India at the Olympics and win a medal,” Singh said.
The WFI has not named any back-up in any of the weight categories. The wrestlers will leave for an exposure stint in Georgia on Tuesday, without Narsingh.