Rowing Federation of India lifts Dattu Bhokanal ban

The federation lifts the two-year ban imposed on the Asian Games gold-medallist after the intervention of IOA president Narinder Batra.

Dattu Bhokanal (in picture) was a member of the Indian quartet that won a gold medal in the men’s quadruple sculls event in the Asian Games.   -  AFP

Dattu Bhokanal’s two-year suspension on charges of tanking a race during the 2018 Asian Games was on Thursday lifted by the Rowing Federation of India (RFI), after the intervention of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra.

Bhokanal was a member of the Indian quartet that won a gold medal in the men’s quadruple sculls event in the Asian Games. But he later left the single sculls race midway. Explaining this, Bhokanal said he fell off the boat as it overturned; he said he also wasn’t well that day. He was banned by the RFI in March, 2019.

After Batra asked the RFI to review its decision, the RFI informed Batra that Bhokanal’s suspension had been lifted. “It’s confirmed the two-year suspension of rower Bhokanal Dattu has been removed with effect from 23 Jan, 2020, he will be advised to prepare for Olympic qualification regatta to be held from 27-30 April, 2020, at Changju, [South] Korea, provided he is the best sculler out of those who are training at the moment, which will be determined after proper trials are carried out,” RFI president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo said in a letter to Batra.

RFI’s decision to lift the ban on Bhokanal came just a day after Batra asked the RFI to provide “all the replies” sought by him by Friday, failing which the case would be referred to the IOC Disciplinary Committee.

Initially, Rajlaxmi told Batra that the case had been referred to RFI’s Athletes Commission, “which had originally dealt with the matter and their opinion is awaited.”

Rajlaxmi also informed sports minister Kiren Rijiju about Bhokanal’s suspension being lifted. The ministry on Wednesday de-recognised RFI for not following the Sports Code of 2011 during it elections last month. “This is to inform you that as per the advice of the RFI Athletes’ Commission, the suspension of two years imposed on rower Bhokanal Dattu on 30 April 2019 has been removed with effect from 23.1.2020,” Rajlaxmi wrote in the letter.

In December, 2019, Bhokanal approached IOA Athletes’ Commission head and former World Championships bronze-medallist long jumper Anju Bobby George, who brought the matter to IOA’s notice. In a letter to the IOA, Anju asked for a reduction in the ban period of Bhokanal in view of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

It led to Batra asking the RFI to review its decision and furnish him the relevant rules of the national federation as well as those of the international body under which Bhokanal was handed a “harsh” ban.