WFI’s imprudence cost India a quota place

The last-minute ineligibility of Narsingh Yadav, who was handed a four-year suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the eve of his bout in the Rio Olympics, forced India to forfeit its 74kg freestyle quota place and highlighted the imprudent approach of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) in handling the matter.

Wrestler Narsingh Yadav. File photo: Sandeep Saxena

The WFI believed that Narsingh was a strong medal prospect and backed him to the hilt even after he tested positive for a banned steroid in the run-up to the Olympics. The WFI top brass supported Narsingh’s conspiracy theory and made every effort, including regular exchange of mails with the world governing body United World Wrestling (UWW), to keep the door open for the World championship bronze medallist.

When UWW gave the WFI options of either forfeiting the quota place or fielding some other wrestler in place of Narsingh, the WFI promptly entered Parveen Rana. However, the National federation maintained that Rana was only a standby.

When the NADA panel exonerated the Mumbai-based wrestler on the ground of conspiracy, the WFI put in a request to the UWW and ensured that Narsingh regained his place in the entry list.

In its bid to back Narsingh, the WFI overlooked the possibility of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) moving the CAS against the NADA panel decision seeking a suspension for the Indian grappler.

The WADA indeed moved the CAS after Narsingh landed in Rio de Janeiro. Ironically, when he was participating in the mandatory weigh-in on the eve of his bout, his lawyer was fighting his case before the CAS panel. Eventually, the worst fears came true for the Indian fans and the CAS suspended Narsingh for four years.