GAME PLAN: The tragedy of being Narsingh Yadav

Jaideep Ghosh

New Delhi: Wrestler Narsingh Yadav arrives at NADA office in New Delhi on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Wrestler Narsingh Yadav arrives at NADA office in New Delhi on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
Photo: PTI

You know there is something rotten in Denmark when the sports page headlines are more about failed dope test than happy successes.

So it would only be justifiable if Neeraj Chopra feels a little let down that all the focus is on the Narsingh Yadav doping issue instead of on him.

The 19-year-old did something no Indian athlete has even come close to. He created a world record on his way to winning the Under-20 World Championship at Bydgoszcz in Poland.

His mark of 86.48 metres was enough to qualify him for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But he’s not on that list.

Just as well, since being on that list isn’t necessarily the best thing nowadays.

Ask Narsingh Yadav.

Yadav’s career will be one of the tragedies of Indian sport. Sadly, we have enough tragedies in that field, but this one is pretty unique.

For one, the 27-year-old from Mumbai had to fight a virtual duel off the wrestling court to get his due as the candidate in the 74-kilo category for the Rio Games.

The sordid record of how Sushil Kumar staked a claim, challenged Yadav to a fight-off and then approached courts in Delhi has been repeated often enough for us to recall, so let’s stick to the current scenario.

The most striking thing about the newsflash that Yadav had failed his dope test was the instant and widespread reaction that he had been framed.

No one had any knowledge of the details. Nor was anyone privy to the man himself on a one-to-one basis. But everyone in the business of sports suiddenly thought, “He has been framed”.

Why? Because it’s no secret that his selection as the No. 1 candidate was not well received by all quarters. So to imagine that one could go so far as to spike his food or drink wasn’t such a fantastic idea.

New Delhi: Supporters of  Wrestler Narsingh Yadav raise slogans at  NADA office in New Delhi on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Supporters of Wrestler Narsingh Yadav raise slogans at NADA office in New Delhi on Wednesday, July 27, 2016.
Photo: PTI

Yadav isn’t the first athlete to claim that he has been framed, nor will he be the last. But for starters, even the most amateur of athletes knows (sadly, through practitioners of doping processes) that such stuff shouldn’t be ingested so close to a competition.

Yadav didn’t get the Olympic berth easily. He really had to fight hard on all fronts to get where he was. It is a little over the top to assume he’d throw it all away.

But then, when you’re into wrong things, you don’t consider all that.

As things stand, few people, including those in the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) are in any doubt that he did not break the rules intentionally.

In fact, his claim that his food or water was spiked has many takers in WFI.

However, even the federation cannot deny that he is in trouble and his Rio dream is more or less over.

Even if he was exonerated, which is unlikely, he’d be in no condition mentally to get his focus back on training.

The wrestling events are towards the fag end of the Games, but for an athlete to get his head, and his muscles, back in order before those is an immense ask.

So even if Yadav does make it, his performance will be affected for sure.

As for the other side of the story, the sabotage claim, that too isn’t outside the realms of possibility.

An athlete’s trip for an event isn’t just about him or her. There are many others who go along, from coaches to doctors to assorted other people.

So when one athlete is carded to go, there are at least 4-5 others who pack their bags. But when the same athlete is sidelined and someone else is preferred, ire is inevitable.

Disappointment and jealousy are strange things. People have killed for those. Spiking a drink isn’t impossible.

Whatever be the real circumstances (which almost surely won’t come out), the fact remains that this is a disgrace and a tragedy, any way you look at it.

FILE | Rio de Janeiro: The Rio 2016 Olympics mascots parade during Carnival celebrations at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. Photo: AP/PTI

FILE | Rio de Janeiro: The Rio 2016 Olympics mascots parade during Carnival celebrations. The Olympics games would be held from Aug 5 to Aug 17, 2016. Photo: AP/PTI

If Yadav has flouted rules, then he deserves what is coming his way. The National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) lawyers are seeking a four-year ban on the Mumbai wrestler, which will effectively end his career.

At the same time, if by some odd chance the sabotage perpetrators are identified, they need to be banned, permanently.

Spiking someone’s food isn’t just a trick to make him miss his chance, it can lead to health issues. So this is not just a stunt, it’s a crime.

Eventually, no one wins. Yadav won’t go. His replacement, Parveen Rana, has too little time to make a realistic effort (if he goes).

All of those angry that they didn’t get to Rio are still not going.

So what was achieved? Nothing, really, since everyone loses.

A tragic drama with dark and evil corners. Narsingh Pancham Yadav’s Olympic tryst will ever be one of the regrettable chapters in the history of Indian wrestling.