In a decision that may cause irreparable damage to the battle against doping, the National Anti-Doping Agency (Nada) has let Narsingh Yadav off, saying the wrestler was “a victim of sabotage done by a competitor”.
Nada director general Naveen Agarwal didn’t name the “competitor” and also refused to elaborate more about the “conspiracy theory”. When the decision on Narsingh was pushed to Monday, there was a feeling that it would be “momentous”. And in a way, it is.
Narsingh Yadav will take the flight to Rio, exonerated; the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) would have to re-examine the Olympic rules. Meanwhile, Nada officials will wonder if positive dope tests will now be constantly justified through the ring of “conspiracy”.
Shot-putter Inderjeet Singh might be wondering if he too needed a better conspiracy theory! Maybe, all those 687 athletes banned since 1 January, 2009, might ask Nada to re-open their cases. Irrespective of whether one is a Narsingh fan or not, it cannot be denied Nada has opened a Pandora’s Box.
Pandemonium and chaos surrounded the Nada office at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Monday. Narsingh fans shouting slogans as TV cameras tracked them like moths to a fire. “Bharat Mata ki Jai” was heard more than once as Narsingh made his appearance. And once Naveen Aggarwal gave the wrestler a clean chit, the jamboree made its way to BJP MP and WFI president Brij Bhushan’s residence on 21 Ashok Road. “We will write to the Olympic Organising Committee and ensure that Narsingh represents India,” Bhushan said.
At the moment, Nada’s order will remain under a 21-day scrutiny and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) can even appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) against Narsingh and Nada. But a precedent has been set. For the first time in India, an athlete has claimed sabotage by a competitor and the Nada has believed the athlete.
It wasn’t too long ago that three 4X400 women’s relay team athletes who ran in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games had tested positive. The lower courts exonerated them. But Wada went to CAS and got them banned for two years. The IOC maintains that no dope tainted athlete will ever enter the Olympic arena.
One also needs to look carefully at Agarwal’s ruling. It simply means that Narsingh has been exonerated of the punishment for testing positive. For all practical purposes, he remains a dope tainted athlete, as he tested positive not once but three times. Rule 2.1 clearly states that it is up to the elite athlete to ensure no substance enters his body.
Earlier in the day, Narsingh’s father Pancham Yadav, along with several dozens of his supporters, had declared Narsingh innocent and protested in front of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Parliamentary office in Varanasi on Saturday, demanding a high-level inquiry into the doping scandal.
Once the verdict was out and Narsingh was pronounced victorious, he said, “This is the biggest battle I have fought. Now I want to move ahead and win an Olympic medal.”
With everything cleared, it’s now only the IOC that stands between Narsingh and the wrestling mats of Rio.