In a dramatic turnaround, wrestler Narsingh Yadav was cleared by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) of doping charges, allowing him to participate in the Rio Olympics, which are scheduled to begin from 5 August.
Earlier this month, Yadav had tested positive for a banned steroid in a routine test, which had put a halt to his dream of going to Rio. The 26-year-old, however, maintained that he had been framed by his opponents in a conspiracy.
The NADA today ruled that the wrestler was a victim of "sabotage" and deserved the benefit of doubt.
Ending the suspense of the last few days, NADA chief Naveen Agarwal read out a statement clearing Yadav, leading to wild celebrations among his supporters. "We kept in mind that in the past, till June 2, none of his samples were positive. It was inconceivable that one-time ingestion would be of benefit. Therefore the panel is of the view that the one-time ingestion was not intentional," Agarwal said, while reading out the verdict.
"The panel concludes that the athlete deserves the benefit of article 10.4 of the NADA's anti-doping code. Keeping in view that he was victim of a sabotage, the panel exonerates the athlete from charges of anti-doping rules of NADA," he added.
Yadav, who had been replaced by Parveen Rana in the Rio-bound squad, was present at the NADA headquarters when the decision was taken on Monday. The Wrestling Federation of India said Yadav would now be brought back into the squad.
The NADA reached the conclusion after three days of marathon hearings last week during which Yadav's lawyers argued that the wrestler had been sabotaged by rivals. Yadav had even filed a police complaint, naming two fellow wrestlers, one of whom is 17 years old.
Yadav had returned positive for methandienone — a banned anabolic steroid, following which he cried foul, claiming that the entire episode was a conspiracy against him. NADA's legal team had also given its arguments against the sabotage theory before the disciplinary committee, stating that the responsibility of keeping his system dope free lay with Narsingh Yadav.
The panel had summoned two cooks on the request of his lawyer Vidushpat Singhania on Saturday to verify the theory of his food being contaminated. Earlier the argument put forth by NADA was that Yadav was not eligible for remission, which he had been asking for, because he failed to establish that he did not commit any fault or negligence.
Relieved after being exonerated of doping charges, Yadav said he is happy to come clean in what seemed to be the "toughest fight" of his life. "This has been the toughest fight of my life. I want to forget the entire episode now and solely focus on winning a medal at the Olympics," Narsingh said.
"Last 15 days have been mentally very very tough for me and my family. But I always believed that I would get justice as I knew that I was on the right side and did not do anything wrong. I have never ever taken anything. I was confident of getting justice," he added. "That is the reason why I always kept practising and never left my training."
The 26-year-old, however, said that anybody behind the sabotage should be punished so that nobody else would have to go through an ordeal similar to his.
He thanked the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), the media and his fans for supporting him.
Social media responded with jubilation at the verdict.
(Written with PTI reports)
Also see on Huff Post