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Narsingh Yadav-Sushil Kumar fiasco shows how politics and sport are inseparable

Narsingh Yadav's failed doping test, Sushil Kumar's tweet and propagation of a conspiracy show politics and sport are two sides of a coin.

Sushil Narsingh
Sushil Kumar (C) and Narsingh Yadav (R) during happier times

India woke up today morning to the news of youngster Neeraj Chopra winning gold at the IAAF Under 20 World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Not only did the youngster make the country proud, he also brought to the fore the rising sun of Indian sport and showcased the increasing awareness of people in games other than cricket. However, that news was overshadowed by a sad development back home: Rio-bound wrestler Narsingh Yadav failed a doping test, thereby putting his participation in grave doubt.

National Anti-Doping Agency Director General Navin Agarwal, speaking to PTI, said, “Yes, he (Narsingh) tested positive for a banned steroid. His ‘B’ sample was also found to be positive. Narsingh was personally present when his ‘B’ sample was opened. He appeared before a disciplinary panel yesterday. The panel sought for more reports regarding the matter. We will proceed further and I am hoping that the panel will proceed quickly. Till then we will have to wait.”

As soon as this news broke out, social media – Twitter and Facebook in particular – became abuzz with people giving their opinion about the matter. Certain media houses even started smelling conspiracy and ran stories about how this might be all a fabricated setup against Narsingh. Conclusions were immediately drawn and quite inevitably, Sushil Kumar was dragged back into the matter.

Unable to resist the desire to comment on the matter, Sushil took to Twitter and communicated how respect is a matter of earning it and asking for it.

Narsingh Yadav, on his part, claimed conspiracy from the rival and cried foul, turning everything into one ugly fiasco. What happens next remains to be seen but can we actually deny the underlying politics that was immersed in the matter since day one? We cannot and we should not.

A school of thought has come up about how Sushil Kumar could still make it to the Olympics, taking advantage of the situation. Another group of people suggested that this could all be a conspiracy to bring Sushil back into the fray for the Rio Olympics, turning the entire matter into something shallow and quite low.

But maybe we need to take a step back and hold our horses. What exactly are we talking about here?

An athlete, one of the most successful Indian wrestlers in recent times, has landed himself in a lot of trouble and needs to be supported till there is conclusive evidence of him actually doing something unethical or disgraceful. However, everything except that is happening right now because we want closure and answers to satiate our never dying hunger of seeing someone of stature falling from grace.

The advent of social media, especially Twitter, has created a war-like scenario and irrespective of the matter at hand, people take sides to fight against the opposition. If we look at things closely, the subject that creates most rivalries after actual electoral politics is sport. There is only one conclusion that one can draw from that – sport and politics are inseperable.

For that statement to be verified, we need to understand what the word “politics” means. A lot of us just equate politics with Congress, BJP, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. But it exists much beyond these names. Everything we do in daily life involves people, and whenever any person makes a choice for his or her own betterment, it qualifies as politics. And quite unquestionably, sport is all about people, and nothing else.

Politics is an integral part of sports and the sooner we realise it, the better. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s feud with Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho not liking Barcelona, Greg Chappell quarrelling with Sourav Ganguly, the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh battle, the Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi standoff, Ritu Rani’s exclusion from the Olympics squad, Hansie Cronje’s match fixing fiasco, Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” and several other incidents are just example of politics.

Before we dust our hands off and decide to say “do not mix politics and sport,” we need to think whether that is even possible. Any group activity, right from a family function to a parliament full of leaders, has certain dynamics, and friction is bound to arise. The friction there is nothing but politics and we should address that openly. Before we blame Sepp Blatter completely for the woes of FIFA and the brazen corruption, the example of Michel Platini, a pure sportsman, should make us think twice.

Not only have sportsmen indulged in politics within their fraternities, some have actually gone on to become real ones, ranging from Romario to Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Why do we say then that sports and politics should be kept apart? Maybe we live in denial and think that the world of sport has a utopian air, which should not be infested by the dirtiness of politics.

The truth, however, is the exact opposite. Not only does sport need politics, it requires a good dose of it – albeit but the clean kind and not the one that is being exercised at the moment. Good politics has the ability to turn the ugliest of things and situations into something beautiful but for that to happen, acknowledgement needs to come first – from everyone. We should not have people saying that politics and sport should remain apart.

Institutional failure is what kills a sport and gives rise to a mess such as this. The institution here in question is nothing else but politics, which has played a huge role in the success of everything around the world. Be it Indian hockey, athletics or even cricket to a certain extent, most of the wrongdoings that take place have their roots firmly placed in the misfunctioning of the institution.

The sooner all of us realise how intrinsically we are connected to politics, the health of Indian sports will become better due to more awareness. More often than not, the system pulls the wool over our eyes because its controllers know how oblivious the normal sports lover in India is to what goes on behind scenes. Along with hours of practice from athletes, it takes a strong administration and a well-run institution to make a country successful in any sport. 

Indian sport is certainly moving in the right direction with more people getting to know about sports like wrestling, kabaddi, badminton and even athletics. For the first time in our country, a badminton player (Saina Nehwal) is spoken in the same breath as a star cricketer (Virat Kohli); that is nothing but good news. However, there is another side that needs to be addressed – it is the political side of sport that has brought us to this juncture, and it is that side alone that can take us further above.

So the next time you read about some player crying conspiracy or going into a battle with the administration, don’t come up with statements about separating politcs and sport. Rather, we should discuss about how the right politics should be in place for the betterment of sport in the country, and how to avoid a situation where a two-time Olympic medalist has to request the Prime Minister for a trial.

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