With Sakshi Malik's bronze and P.V. Sindhu's smashing entry into the badminton finals, India seemed to be on a dream run at the Rio Olympics, when bad news struck early this morning.
Wrestler Narsingh Pancham Yadav, who had made it to the games in spite of the initial hurdle of a failed dope test, was slapped a four-year ban by the ad hoc division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The suspension comes into effect immediately.
Yadav, who was to compete in the 74 kg category, had cleared his medical checks, but had to return to the Games Village. He will be flown back to India soon.
Last month, Yadav had tested positive for a banned anabolic steroid in a routine check-up, following which he had alleged foul play. He said the entire incident was an attempt to sabotage his career. A FIR was also filed based on Yadav's complaint and a junior wrestler was accused of mixing drugs in his food.
In a dramatic turnaround, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) later cleared Yadav of doping charges, accepting the sabotage theory and giving him the benefit of doubt. NADA chief Naveen Agarwal read out a statement, amidst wild celebrations among Yadav's supporters, saying, "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."
Following this verdict, Yadav was rushed to Rio by the Indian contingent, where he was all set to take part until two days ago, when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suddenly decided to appeal to CAS against NADA's ruling. The Indian officials were given barely 48 hours to prepare to defend Yadav, who was initially told he would be able to participate in his bout on Friday. Hours later, another message from CAS shattered all his hopes.
"The CAS panel did not accept the argument of the athlete that he was victim of sabotage and noted that there was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional. Therefore, the standard four-year period of ineligibility was imposed by the panel," an official press release said.
Speaking to The Times of India, the Indian contingent's chef-de-mission Rakesh Gupta said they "had written to the world wrestling body, the International Olympic Committee and also the Organising Committee of the Rio Games" after getting the clean chit from NADA. According to him, both had accepted Yadav's entry, which was the reason he travelled with the contingent.
"When we were assured that everything was fine, then we suddenly got a letter from WADA three days back that it had appealed against Narsingh's entry in the Rio Games. We asked for time but they gave us 48 hours. We tried to present our case and were confident but have got this shocking news now. Narsingh will be a shattered man today. His career has been ruined. It is so unfortunate," Gupta added.
According to a PTI report, the CAS ruling not only bans Yadav from competitive sports for four years but also disqualifies all competitive results obtained by him from and including 25 June 2016 onwards, "with all resulting consequences (including forfeiture of medals, points and prizes)".
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