It may have shattered the boxing community but the news of top woman boxer Neeraj testing positive has not come exactly come as a surprise to a few insiders. In fact, a former national coach revealed that the featherweight star had run away from the national camp three years ago when dope-testing officials landed at Delhi's Indira Gandhi Stadium
“Neeraj is a very talented boxer, quick on her feet and has good endurance. A few years ago she even appeared to be a threat to Mary Kom. But in 2016 she vanished from the national camp without informing anybody when testing officials came,” said the coach on Tuesday.
“She returned a few days later when she realised that a police complaint had been filed about it. So, we knew she was up to something. And in Haryana, which has many good male boxers, women boxers often get information from men on what stuff to take to increase performance.”
Meanwhile Raffaele Bergamasco, Indian boxing's High Performance Director, said the news is a spot of bother.
“This is a very bad situation because Neeraj is a very good boxer and she had a very good chance of going to the Olympics. If she had committed this mistake, my team and I think this is dangerous and she needs to be removed from the national camp,” said the Italian.
“She is among India's top five boxers and the No. 1 in her category (57kg). Now, we will have to work on another girl to take her place.”
Former international Ali Qamar, the chief coach for Indian women's boxing, said there should be more awareness on doping among boxers.
India Open gold medallist Neeraj, a former 51kg national champion from Haryana, was among the core probables for next Tokyo Olympics and had stunned the 2016 World champion Alessia Messiano on the way to gold at the Umakhanov meet in Russia in August. And she had beaten former World championship silver medallist Sonia Chahal to book her Worlds ticket.
Having produced two Olympic bronze medallists, in Vijender Singh (2008, Beijing) and Mary (2012, London), boxing has climbed a few rungs in the popularity chart in India.
Despite Neeraj’s case, the National Anti-Doping Agency officials have not turned up in Kannur to test boxers at the ongoing women's Elite Nationals.
With the Boxing Federation of India's trials to pick the boxers for the Olympic qualifiers scheduled to be held later this month, this is probably the best time to catch dope cheats.
Is NADA throwing away a golden opportunity to clean up the sport?
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