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Narsingh Yadav doesn't deserve all this scathing, premature criticism

The chances of India winning that elusive gold medal in wrestling will diminish if Narsingh is stopped from going.

Narsingh Yadav
Narsingh has been one of India’s most consistent performers in the past few years
 

Narsingh Yadav's hour of calling came when he won India's sole medal at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships, thus booking a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. But now, after failing a dope test conducted by NADA, his participation in the Games has come under a cloud. Narsingh has seen the best and the worst that can happen to an athlete in the past one year.

“Can I come back from the dead?" seems to be the biggest question for Narsingh, the Indian wrestler who was set to play his first match on 19th August at Hall 3 of the Olympic Training Center in Barra da Tijuca.

Being the son of a small-time milk supplier from Mumbai, he knows what it means to represent India, that too at the Olympics. It has always been his dream. 

Narsingh has played close to 50 national and international tournaments. And in the past four years, he has never finished lower than sixth in any of the international tournaments. He had never failed any dope test prior to this either. Which brings us to the question: why would he consume anything intentionally which can jeopardise his chances of playing at the Games?

Although the definition of doping is very elaborate in the books of National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), the general understanding is that the usage of steroids amounts to doping. The assumption that doping can be one of the worst humiliations for a player is true. Stripped of their glory once caught, they go down in history as no more than a disgrace to the sport.

It is obvious that a clear line has to be drawn between right and wrong. But to blame the athlete alone is not the wisest thing to do. While a lot of what's black and white might still be hidden in the details, there are tougher questions that need to be asked. 

Who is behind this fiasco?

It's hard to imagine Narsingh being so stupid as to intentionally consume a banned substance so close to the Games. And in case we don't remember, he is the same guy who won a medal at the Spanish Grand Prix this month. So jumping to premature conclusions doesn’t make sense (even NADA hasn’t had a final say).

While doping is a real problem affecting athletes across the gamut of sports, are we asking the right questions? I think we are.

The hype that surrounded the Narsingh Yadav-Sushil Kumar saga was unprecedented. After Narsingh won the quota in the 74-kg category for India, Sushil Kumar dragged him to court but it was the former who emerged the victor. A month later and exactly two weeks ahead of Rio, in an anti-climatic show, Narsingh has tested positive for a banned steroid. Sounds fishy, right?

Narsingh, along with his parents, coach Jagmal Singh and WFI President, have claimed innocence. Is it a conspiracy against him? Meanwhile, his competitor in the same category, two-time Olympian Sushil Kumar, uploaded an Instagram post yesterday, which was downright cheeky.

He earned India the quota for the 74kg category in the Rio Olympics

But I would also be foolhardy to point the finger at Sushil Kumar. Whilst many might question his desperation for going to the Supreme Court for gaining a trial, he doesn't stand to gain anything from this. The Indian Wrestling Federation has already blown that possibility out of the window with the President Mr Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh having announced that the 74-kg quota will go empty if Narsingh is banned from participating.

Additionally, Sushil is not even in shape or practising, and is certainly no ‘Sultan’.

But does that mean Narsingh is guilty? Should we judge him for being a cheat without even ascertaining all the facts?

Let's accept it: we are a country obsessed with IITs, NITs, and IIMs. We might call ourselves a global spectator nation, but as a sporting nation, we have not made much progress in terms of professionalism in the last four years. We haven't been able to broaden our mindset to the level where we go deep and try to find out hidden truths instead of jumping the gun and blaming the athlete.

– Narsingh Yadav tests positive for doping. Blame him for cheating.

Hockey captain Ritu Rani is not selected for Olympics. Blame her lack of dedication.

– Dutee Chand pleads for new running shoes. Blame the government and the sports ministry.

How about taking a dip in the muddy waters for once?

It is said evil rises when good people do nothing. And that's what we are doing: nothing. In fact, pointing fingers at people instead of demanding to know the truth is actually worse than nothing.

Even the cook at SAI has claimed that doping substances could have been mixed in their food, with Narsingh’s roommate also having tested positive for the same substance. Add to that the death threats that Narsingh has been receiving, and you realize that this is surely not the way a star of this country should be treated. Especially a star who has helped the Indian flag fly high and proud at international events.

So we have to choose this time. And we can choose to do the right thing. Ask the right questions and demand for the resolution of this ugly episode in a correct and authoritative manner.

We are not short of talent, we have never been. But we need to believe and trust our athletes so that they can take their talent to the next level. 

There is no question of talent not being present, but there is a need to have a proper system free of corruption to make selections more transparent. If this blueprint is successfully implemented, then our target in Mission Rio is not far from being accomplished. All that is needed is proper selection and the willingness to win for the country, which all these athletes have.

Also Read: The ridiculous exclusion of Indian women's hockey captain Ritu Rani

Despite all the setbacks, we can take heart from the fact that we are fielding our largest-ever contingent in the Summer Games. The fan following of Olympic sports has increased manifold in the country and the athletes draw quite an amount of attention. Not just that, we are expected to better our highest ever mark of six medals this time around. With a number of dedicated athletes in the fray, the line-up is an impressive one.

With less than two weeks to go for the Games, Narsingh's Olympic dream has been dealt a big blow. This is a testing time for him, but India's sole medalist at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships needs our support. From the suburbs of Jogeshwari to where he is now, Narsingh has shown a lot of grit to come this far.

The chances of India winning that elusive gold in wrestling will diminish if Narsingh is stopped from going. All that needs to be seen is whether he is given a Rio ticket to change the destiny of Indian wrestling.

And why not? After all, he is someone who is known to rise from the dead.

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