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Rio Olympics 2016: Is the Narsingh Yadav dope saga product of precipitating North versus West lobbies in Indian Wrestling?

These are uncertain and worrying times for one of Indias top medal prospects and to the Olympic movement as a whole.

narsingh yadav
Narsingh Yadav was picked over Sushil Kumar after a lot of confusion in the 74 kg category

A lovely Sunday morning in Mumbai, basking in the glory of Neeraj Chopra’s brilliant World Record in Javelin last evening, has been shattered with the news of Narsingh Yadav’s supposed failure of dope tests as confirmed by DG of NADA.

While it is not clear what is the steroid he has supposedly consumed, his B sample was also found to be positive. Narsingh was personally present when his B sample was opened, according to NADA.

The random tests were conducted on July 5th, before Spanish Grand Prix, where Narsingh had won a bronze. Somebody needs to answer why the dope test results have taken so long to come. The cut-off dates for the sending the list of participants to Rio Olympics was July 18th. This implies that if Narsingh is proved guilty, the quota that he won for India goes waste.

So much for this controversy, which will see its conclusion shortly.

Let’s chronicle some events that may have brought India to the doorstep of this heart-wrenching event just a few days before the Olympics.

Haryana hammers!

Talk wrestling in India and we imagine the dangals of Haryana and the NCR regions, Chatararsaal Stadium, the brainwave of Satpal Singh, where many A level wrestlers practice from the early hours of the morning and of course the Haryanvi dialect of the wrestlers both male and female. There is no other sport in India that is as localized in one state as wrestling is.

Occasionally we do hear of some akharas in Maharashtra, thanks in no small measure to successes of Sandeep Tulsi Yadav, Rahul Aware and of course their most famous son Narsingh Yadav.

Born in Uttar Pradesh, but settled down in the northern suburbs of Mumbai this introvert of a man has always had to contend with the tag of an outsider. After all, he was not a product of the North Indian Akhada Circuit.

Hate him or love him, Narsingh had announced to the North Indian bosses of Wrestling that he was not someone to be shoved around when he won the Asian Wrestling Championships and Commonwealth Games both in Delhi, 2010.

Next couple of years were quiet as he lost early in the London Olympics and doubts over his speed and temperament started creeping in. A young Parveen Rana was lurking in the shadows with his World Junior Championships title and Narsingh had to be on his toes.

That he did by finishing 5th in the 2013 worlds losing to Jordan Burroughs but winning against some quality opponents like Hasanov. But as destiny would have it, the reworking of the lower weight classes in freestyle wrestling saw Sushil and Narsingh in the 74 kg category.

Egos clash and seniority triumphs

It always amazed me how Sushil Kumar’s shoulder injury would resurface before tougher tournaments and vanish before the easier ones.

There was a huge furore when Amit Dhankar questioned Wrestling Federation of India regarding the absence of trials prior to CWG-Glasgow. Dhankar went to court, nearly came to blows with Yogeshwar Dutt and the die was cast for further debates.

Anyways Sushil won at Glasgow and controversy surfaced over his participation at the Asian Games and World Championships. WFI wanted him at Incheon and he wanted to be at the worlds resulting in non-participation in both tournaments. Surprise surprise..shoulder injury resurfaces.

Sushil promptly declares non-availability for both championships

This to me was more like.. ‘It’s my way or highway’ attitude. So whom does the WFI go to clean up the mess? Narsingh Pancham Yadav.

The Mumbai man did not disappoint through his bronze, a greater achievement than the CWG gold.

Nothing changed in 2015, with Sushil unavailable for every tournament and Narsingh doing the hard work and securing the bronze medal at the Las Vegas Worlds, in the process secured India her first Olympic quota.

As Rio approached Sushil was back to his games off the mat and started demanding for trials.

If Olympics is the ultimate exam then the following pointers should be considered here before acceding to Sushil’s demand for trials:

- Is a win over Narsingh in the trials sufficient to send him to RIO?

- What is his match experience in the 74 kg category as compared to Narsingh?

- Narsingh has defeated 6 of his prospective opponents at RIO.

- Has Sushil faced any worthy opponents in this category?

- All the wrestlers in this category have been extremely active on the wrestling circuit.

- If he was fit for the trials, could he not have participated in the Los Angeles Freestyle World Cup which had some of the best wrestlers in the world? This would have proved his match fitness.

Last but not the least.. Why was this request of trials not made before the 2015 World Championships?

Many questions..no answers. Will we ever get them?

WFI said no to trials, Sushil went to court and Narsingh won the right to go to Rio, or at least we thought so. Apprehensions were anyways raised over his physical safety and he lived in police protection.

The doping issue if viewed in this controversial backdrop smells of a conspiracy against this unassuming wrestler.

We need to ask ourselves, why would someone who has never doped, try and do something like this so close to RIO Olympics when dope testing greyhounds would be trying to smell everything remotely connect to doping.

Most importantly, the Olympic movement is facing the prospect of losing sporting and political powerhouse like Russia due to state-sponsored doping. There are talks of some ex-Soviet bloc countries joining Russia on the sidelines.

These are uncertain and worrying times for one of India’s top medal prospects and to the Olympic movement as a whole. Next few days will reveal a lot.

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