Jitesh Kumar and his father Surender Singh were the worried twosome on Monday morning as they approached a Sonepat court for anticipatory bail. This was several hours before India’s National Anti-Doping Agency or NADA announced its decision to exonerate the 74-kg wrestler Narsingh Yadav from charges of violating anti-doping rules. It came to Narsingh and his family as a huge relief for two reasons. Rio participation was one thing but if Narsingh had been found guilty, he would have been slapped a 4-year ban from official wrestling competitions. The fact that the culprit Jitesh went to the court for bail before the NADA decision, almost amounts to an admission of guilt. The Narssingh Yadav story has been in the media for several months since he earned an Olympic Quota Place for India more than 10 months ago. Soon after Narsingh won the 74-kg freestyle bronze in Wrestling World Championships in Las Vegas in September 2015, debates continued to rage on whether the wrestler would concede the quota place to London Olympics silver medalist Sushil Kumar. The Wrestling Federation of India and the Indian Olympic Association allowed the thorny issue to hang on for too long and final decision came only last month. And then came the doping scandal, in which Narsingh’s two urine samples showed presence of a banned steroid and NADA announced his replacement for the Rio Games. The disappointed wrestler appealed against the ruling and finally it was proved that his food or drink had been by spiked with the banned substance by an overzealous competitor.
No one from the Rio-bound Indian contingent made more news than wrestler Narsingh Pancham Yadav. Ever since he won the bronze medal at last September’s Wrestling World Championships in Las Vegas, Narsingh has been occupying space in the Indian media. His triumph led to India earning an Olympic Quota in the 74-kg freestyle category and debate began whether the wrestler should cede his place to double Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar. Sushil was the bronze medal winner at Beijing in 2008 and silver medalist in London Games in 2012. But both medals had come in the now non-existent 68-kg category and injury prevented Sushil from entering the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Therefore, when Narsingh won the quota place, Sushil and his supporters started staking the claim for Rio berth. Their plea was; Narsingh had only earned the quota for the nation and the Wrestling Federation of India, WFI should choose Sushil because he has already acquitted himself in two previous Games by winning medals. Sushil even took the legal route to challenge WFI, when they announced Narsingh’s name for Rio. But the court set aside Sushil’s appeal and Narsingh was finally cleared in June 2016.
One month later, Narsingh landed himself in fresh trouble, when NADA found him guilty of using a banned substance methandienone and its traces were detected in his urine samples. Last week, WFI announced that under these circumstances, the wrestler cannot represent India in 2016 summer Olympics and named a replacement. However, NADA admitted Narsingh’s appeal, in which he stated that he was a victim of sabotage and his food or drink was spiked with methandienone by someone during the training. He didn’t take the name of the 17-year old Delhi wrestler Jitesh Kumar, who now looks like the alleged culprit because he and his father had gone to a court in Sonepat on Monday morning for anticipatory bail, hours ahead of NADA’s decision on Narsingh.
Initially, NADA’s decision had been based on two urine samples, both of which contained the same banned substance. But in his appeal, Narsingh brought to their notice that he was not notified about the result of the first sample and therefore as per the WADA rules, the result amounted to only one infringement. Besides, the steroid was not a performance enhancing substance and the timing of its entry into his body wouldn’t have benefitted him during the contest at Rio. NADA was satisfied by his pleas and exonerated him. However, there is another hurdle that still remains for Narsingh. If WADA is not satisfied by NADA’s submission on Narsingh, they would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS. Narsingh’s passage to Rio can only be cleared if CAS upholds NADA’s verdict.