Is 'Team Sushil' responsible for Narsingh's failed drug test? India's sporting ecosystem desperately needs help
In the summer of 1900 in Paris, a future broadway star, named Norman Pritchard from Kolkata, thrust himself into international sporting stardom by winning 2 silver medals at what was the second Olympic Games. Interestingly, local newspaper archives from the next day show no coverage whatsoever of the achievement. Perhaps we didn’t realise the stature of the feat. What followed next, well over a prolonged period of time i.e. exemplifies why we should savour Pritchard’s feats even more.
For over a hundred years, we couldn’t land another silver medal and but when it finally happened, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was adored by the country. After all, a serviceman who had picked up the gun for the first time not too long back proved to be the sole source of joy and aplomb to the world’s largest democracy. What’s relatively unknown though is Rathore had failed a drug test days before the Athens Games.
Shocking as it is, perhaps more appalling fact is that no one really heard of the same till 2013 when he tried contesting for the presidential post of the NRAI, the governing body for shooting in India.
The aforementioned office released a series of emails between ISSF and themselves on the ‘topic’; apparently, the ISSF flagged instances of Rathore having tested positive for the use of ‘Prednisolene (a banned substance as per the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA),’.
Then Secretary General, NRAI, Baljit Singh Sethi wrote to the Secretary General, ISSF, Horst G Schreiber saying that “we are confident that the concerned shooter had never taken Prednisolone. He is a well-disciplined shooter and is an officer in the Indian Army and we feel that there is something wrong with the analysis procedure.”
Surprising as one might find that, a letter, pardon us, an email sufficed to prove the innocence and shrug off doping taints off an Olympian's resume.
More glory in 2012
Come 2012, we won 2 more silver medals; while shooter Vijay Kumar won his medal first, the country buoyed the achievement of freestyle wrestler Sushil Kumar, who didn’t just ensure India returned with its best medal haul but also became the first ever from the country to win 2 individual medals at the Olympics. He was and is still revered to be one of our greatest sportspersons ever.
In 2013 though, the International Olympic Committee decided to get wrestling off its program and it was only after a series of protests that they reinstated the sport, albeit some weight categories had been tinkered with.
Sushil suddenly found himself in no man's land and although he kept himself going, these last few months of attempting to participate and win that unprecedented third Olympic medal has been very unsavoury, to say the least. The visits to the court and the public jibes against Narsingh Yadav, who had earned India a quota place by winning bronze at the world championships in Las Vegas in 2015 were quite uncharacteristic of the usually calm and gentle Sushil.
Yesterday, in what is the latest twist in the thriller that Sushil's bid to get to Rio, Narsingh failed a drug test and while reading through a bunch of reports which claim 'Team Sushil' to be behind Narsingh failing the drug test, we couldn't help but wonder how stifling the sporting ecosystem must be.
The ‘Team Sushil’ rumours are pure speculation at the moment and if no proof of it comes to light, Sushil Kumar deserves an apology from everyone
From Rathore to Sushil, is that Olympic medal really that important? What about the Olympic creed which preaches participation over the need to win? What kind of egoistic surrounding is this that the country's greatest individual Olympians stoop to such measures to ensure their stature?
And while we will desperately hope that Sushil had little or nothing to do with this failed drug test, we ought to question ourselves if the persistent desire to triumph, which usually makes an athlete stand out, can also lead to his downfall? To what lengths, after all, does one agree to go to win that elusive medal?