The Narsingh Yadav saga has come to an unfortunate conclusion. The wrestler has been handed a four-year ban from all competitions by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), the apex global authority on legal issues in sport, which overturned India’s National Anti-Doping Agency’s (NADA) decision to clear Yadav of doping charges.
The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) appealed against NADA’s decision at CAS. The CAS decision came minutes after Yadav, who competes in the 74kg category, appeared for his weigh-in, and a little more than 12 hours before his first bout in Rio.
The decision put an end to Yadav’s participation at the ongoing Olympics, which also means that India will not have a wrestler competing in the 74kg category.
This was always the risk the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) ran for choosing to stick with Yadav after he failed a dope test just before the Olympics, instead of picking another wrestler in the category.
CAS ruled that “all competitive results obtained by Narsingh from and including 25 June 2016 shall be disqualified, with all resulting consequences (including forfeiture of medals, points and prizes)."
Yadav released a statement through his sponsors, JSW Sports: “To say I am devastated at the decision of CAS would be putting it mildly. I have gone through so much over the last two months off the mat but the thought of fighting for the glory of the nation at the Games had kept me going. My dream of competing and winning the country a medal at the Rio Olympics has been cruelly snatched away from me twelve hours before my first bout."
Yadav was told to vacate the Olympic village with immediate effect.
This was a disaster waiting to happen.
Narsingh had tested positive for methandionene, a banned substance, after NADA conducted tests at SAI’s centre for wrestlers at Sonepat, Haryana on 23 July.
Even before he tested positive, Yadav’s journey to Rio 2016 had already turned into an ugly mess after double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who also fights in the 74kg weight class, had challenged the decision to send Yadav to the Olympics at the Delhi high court. Yadav’s dope test happened days after the court had given a verdict in his favour.
Yadav claimed that his positive test was a result of sabotage, and was backed by both WFI and IOA. On 2 August, a three-member panel assembled by NADA exonerated Yadav, accepting the claim of sabotage, and he was sent to Rio.
But how did the panel come to this conclusion? Article 2.1 of WADA’s anti-doping rules states: “It is each athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers found to be present in their samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping rule violation."
This leaves only two avenues to prove sabotage: Video evidence of the act of sabotage, or a confession by the saboteur. In the absence of either, there can be only one conclusion: The panel took a sympathetic view of Yadav, possibly because of the support the wrestler got from WFI and IOA, and cleared him without the necessary legal diligence.
According to the rules, WADA was always going to file an appeal against the decision, which is exactly what it did. And CAS had no reason—definitely no legal reason—to be gracious to Yadav. CAS came to the only conclusion it could have: “There was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional."The four-year suspension followed automatically.
Sending Yadav was a poor decision by WFI and IOA in more than one way. If they had not sent him to the Olympics, WADA may not have appealed NADA’s decision. Yadav would have missed the Olympics, but with no harm done to his career. The four-year ban can finish his career instead.
The WFI and IOA are continuing to behave in an irresponsible manner, still claiming conspiracies without proof, and making thinly veiled accusations that India’s most decorated Olympian, Sushil Kumar, is to blame.
“The picture is clear and neither I nor anyone has to say who’s done the foul play. If you go back, you can easily connect the dots and would clearly know who could be the suspect," IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told PTI. “It’s not a just loss for Narsingh at the Court of Arbitration for Sports but he was beaten by his compatriots who did not want to let him compete at the Olympics and not by his opponents."