Narsingh off to Rio, but yet to get the all-clear signal

Though the NADA has cleared Narsingh Yadav of doping allegation, the wrestler, being an international-level athlete placed in the UWW international registered testing pool, may face another hurdle. In case the WADA moves the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the NADA panel’s August 1 decision, then the wrestler may have to wait for the final order from CAS.

Wrestler Narsingh Yadav with the WFI president Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, after meeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Parliament House in New Delhi on August 2. The WFI has stood by Narsingh during his difficult times.   -  R. V. Moorthy

After weathering the storm following his positive dope test, Narsingh Yadav is all set to fly to Rio de Janeiro later tonight to take part in the Olympics.

The 74 kg freestyle wrestler, who tested positive for a banned steroid in out-of-competition tests conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) on June 25 and July 5 during the National camp at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre in Sonepat, had hit the headlines after alleging ‘foul play’ and ‘conspiracy’ behind the positive tests.

Narsingh, 26, earned the country’s first wrestling quota place for the Rio Olympics by winning a bronze medal in the World championship held in Las Vegas last September. However, the two-time Olympic medal winner and former World champion, Sushil Kumar, demanded a trial between him and Narsingh to determine who would represent India in the 74 kg at Rio 2016.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), which stuck to the tradition of sending the quota place winners to the Olympics, backed Narsingh even as Sushil moved the Delhi High Court seeking a trial.

After the High Court rejected Sushil’s plea, the SAI had informed the Haryana Police that there was security threat to Narsingh at the National camp. Citing this, Narsingh argued before the NADA disciplinary panel that he was a victim of ‘sabotage’ and someone had spiked his food or drink at the National camp.

Narsingh defended himself saying why would he use the banned substance, methandienone (known to help muscle growth), when he needed to lose weight in the run-up to the Olympics. He raised the instance of his injured room-mate, Sandeep Yadav, testing positive for the same substance to add strength to his ‘sabotage’ claim.

The WFI strongly supported Narsingh’s ‘conspiracy’ theory and maintained that if the NADA panel exonerated him, he would be India’s first choice wrestler for the 74 kg competition in Rio.

Meanwhile, the WFI had sent Parveen Rana’s name as the ‘stand-by’ for Narsingh. When the NADA panel let Narsingh off under ‘no fault or negligence’ clause of the anti-doping code, the WFI negotiated with the world governing body, the United World Wrestling (UWW), and managed to re-enter Narsingh’s name in the list of participants.

Narsingh, who had shifted his training base from Sonepat to Mumbai after the incident and trained with the French coach, Damien Jacomelli, recruited by JSW Sports, was supposed to undergo a reinstatement test before leaving for the Rio Olympics. However, a WFI official said, “There was no need for reinstatement test and he is leaving for Rio.”

Since Narsingh is an international-level athlete and is placed in the UWW international registered testing pool, he may face another hurdle. In case the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) moves the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the NADA panel’s August 1 decision, then the wrestler may have to wait for the final order from CAS, which has opened its office in Rio to dispose of important cases in quick time.

As of now, WADA, which has 21 days to appeal against the decision, has said it is reviewing the NADA panel verdict.