doping scandal

Doping, sabotage, scandal: The Narsingh Yadav saga has turned Indian wrestling into a farce

From mysterious intruders to claims of vendetta, it’s the perfect potboiler, except the biggest loser is Indian sport.

Doping, sabotage, incrimination, spiked food. No, this is not the tagline of the Hindi film industry’s next potboiler. Less than ten days before the Olympics begin, Indian sport has been dominated, not by news of Indian medal prospects, but by a tale of doping and deception which has more twists and turns than a Dan Brown novel.

Things have reached such an extent that it has become difficult to separate facts from speculation. But in case the entire furore has muddled things up somewhat, here’s a chronology of events:

  • Narsingh Pancham Yadav won the bronze medal at the World Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. This gained India a quota place in the Rio Olympics for the same category, 74 kg freestyle wrestling.
  • Though the general trend has been to send the wrestler who won the quota place to the Olympics, Sushil Kumar, an Indian wrestling veteran and winner of bronze and silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, disputed that claim. He sought a final bout between him and Yadav to decide India’s representative at the Olympics and took his dispute to the Delhi High Court, which ultimately ruled against him.
  • On Sunday morning, the Director General of the National Anti-Doping Agency announced that Yadav had tested positive for a banned substance, which was later known to be methandienone, a steroid for building muscle. This test had been conducted on June 25; the wrestler was provisionally suspended for the Olympics and is facing a disciplinary hearing.
  • The 26-year-old claimed that he was a victim of sabotage, which was backed by the Wrestling Federation of India. In the meanwhile, the Indian Olympic Association requested the world governing body of wrestling, United World Wrestling, to provisionally replace Yadav with 23-year-old Parveen Rana.
  • Yadav’s roommate at the Sports Authority of India Centre at Sonepat in Haryana also tested positive for doping. The Wrestling Federation of India latched onto this as more proof that there was a well-calibrated attempt to sabotage Yadav’s chances of representing the nation at Rio.
  • Yadav’s B-sample, taken on July 5, also returned a positive result.

A mysterious intruder

Now, this is where it all enters murky territory. From the beginning, Yadav has claimed that he has been a victim of conspiracy and even demanded a probe from the Central Bureau of Investigation. “Someone sabotaged my food supplements and maybe even water intake while I was training at the national camp in Sonepat ,” he said in an interview to the Times of India.

The Wrestling Federation of India have also backed him to the hilt, pointing out that Yadav had a clean record till now and that that the wrestler had complained to them in writing that a conspiracy was being hatched against him. Yadav has even filed a police complaint in Sonepat, accusing a junior wrestler of spiking his food.

Some reports, quoting anonymous sources, have emerged that mention that a person has already been identified as the one who spiked the food supplements. Supposedly, in June when Yadav was away for a training stint in Bulgaria, an unnamed-as-yet intruder infiltrated the SAI Centre in Sonepat and spiked Yadav’s food. The intruder has been described as a wrestler in the 65 kg category and the younger brother of an international wrestler. Yadav’s brother also stressed the point that the as-yet-unnamed wrestler belonged to Sushil Kumar’s akhada in Delhi, hence dragging Kumar back into the entire furore.

As of now, Kumar has been rather cryptic in his comments. He initially posted a tweet stating that respect should be earned and not demanded:

He then followed it up by posting another video where he said that he would always support fellow wrestlers:

His coach, Satpal Singh, however, rallied against the allegations that cropped up accusing them of the sabotage. “They are trying to show Satpal and his team did it, but we have nothing to do with this. Don’t level allegations against us without proof. If you have proof then come forward,” he said.

The biggest victim

Every day seems to draw new revelations. But the sobering fact that was somewhat overlooked is the impact this is having on Indian sport. There was much optimism in the air in the build-up to Rio about the fact that India were sending their largest ever contingent to the Olympics. Prospects of a medal were high and there was even an air of anticipation.

This controversy, coming as it has right on the eve of the Olympics, has dampened the prospects of not just wrestling, but Indian sport in general. One wonders what the impact of this unseemly furore has been on the rest of the Indian contingent to Rio, especially on Sandeep Tomar, Yogeshwar Dutt and the other Indian wrestlers. Even if Yadav is cleared of his doping charges, he has already wasted precious time over this matter. On top of that, the tremendous mental pressure that he has had to undergo is bound to take a toll.

And if Parveen Rava does go in his place, it would be too much to expect a good performance, considering the relentless spotlight he will be sure to be subjected to.

Right now, there are too many questions. Who was this intruder and what were his motivations? Why did Yadav not make the infiltration attempt public if he knew of it earlier? Now that both his doping samples have returned a positive result, will the NADA be convinced of the sabotage theory?

And as more questions crop up and the answers none too forthcoming, Indian wrestling prospects at the Olympics retreat ever so deeper into the distance.

For all the sports scores and reports, go to The Field.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Uninterrupted power supply during natural disasters can be a reality

The right material can protect electricity poles from getting damaged even during natural disasters.

According to a UN report, natural disasters in the last decade have occurred almost twice as often compared to two decades ago, with Asia being the hardest hit. The report reveals that the number of such events had gone up 14% annually between 2005 and 2015 compared to the period 1995-2014. Such findings have driven countries like UK and USA to accelerate their resilience building measures. ‘Resilience’ implies preparedness and having a robust coping mechanism to deal with the damage wrought by hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other violent natural events. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has even launched a campaign called Making Cities Resilient which suggests, among other things, increasing the resilience of infrastructure for crucial services including electrical power, transport, healthcare and telecommunications.

India’s vulnerability to natural disasters

The UN report lists India as third among the countries hit by the highest number of weather related disasters in the past decade. The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in its Annual Disaster Review for 2014 also listed India among the five countries most frequently hit by natural disasters.

According to the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project, almost 5,700 kilometers of India’s 7,500 kilometers of coastline are highly vulnerable to the impact of tropical cyclones and related meteorological hazards. Research by Verisk Maplecroft also shows that 82% of the population in India are exposed to natural hazards, compared with 50% of the population in China.

What is also disturbing is the increased vulnerability of populous Indian cities to the effects of these natural disasters, caused by growing population density, haphazard construction activities and inadequate preparedness. The recent Mumbai floods which crippled the city in August 2017, for example, were exacerbated by the city’s out-of-date drainage system and unbridled construction over the city’s natural nullahs, which otherwise could have effectively drained excess water. A report on World Disasters by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), lists Mumbai among the 10 most vulnerable cities in terms of floods and earthquakes. A survey shows that, on an average, 21 Indian cities scored between 2.5 to 4 points out of 10 on governance parameters that measure preparedness for disasters.

Regions like the North East in India are particularly susceptible to natural disturbances like earthquakes, floods and landslides. According to the National Flood Commission, Assam, for example, accounts for 9.4% of the total flood prone area in the country. The commission estimated that due to floods, Assam suffered a loss of Rs, 3,100 crores in the past five decades. The whole of Brahmaputra Valley in Assam is in fact considered one of the most hazard prone regions in the country, with more than 40% of its land (3.2 million hectares) being susceptible to flood damage.

All these point to the need for resilience building measures, particularly to protect crucial infrastructure like electrical power – one of the first casualties during a natural disaster. For example, when Hurricane Sandy struck the US East Coast in 2012, about 2,427 utility poles were toppled or broken, reportedly shutting off power to more than 8.5 million households. Back home, when Cyclone Wardah hit Chennai in December 2015, power supply was disrupted in the city and its neighbouring districts of Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur. Reports said thousands of concrete poles just collapsed and reportedly 32,000 poles had to be replaced in the three districts. Government officials were even quoted as saying that the estimated loss from uprooted poles alone was about Rs 65 crore. Inability of electricity poles (also called utility poles) to withstand strong winds contributes significantly to the disruption of power supply during such natural occurrences.

So how can critical infrastructure like electricity poles be saved during a disaster like a cyclone? One way could be to use better-suited material.

Ensuring power supply during natural contingencies

When typhoon Rammasun hit Guangdong in China, more than 70,000 concrete and metal poles collapsed. Earlier, in the aftermath of the massive Chuetsu earthquake in Japan in 2004, about 3,400 utility poles supporting communication cables were broken or toppled.

A post-event assessment revealed that many of the damaged poles were concrete. Concrete poles are comparatively difficult to repair or replace because of their weight and dependence on heavy machinery to install them. Besides, concrete has low tensile strength and often requires the use of materials like steel for reinforcement. When moisture seeps in through cracks in the concrete, the steel reinforcement rusts leading to further deterioration of the concrete pole.

There have been other instances of concrete and metal poles being completely destroyed by natural forces. In tornadoes that ripped through Florida in the late 90s for example, even 100-foot spun concrete transmission poles tested to withstand 250 mph winds, toppled. Ice storms such as the 1998 North American Ice Storm caused over a 1,000 steel towers to collapse under the accumulated weight of the ice. Some of these incidents led to the continued use of wood as a preferred material for utility poles. But environmental concerns emerged due to the use of certain chemicals for treatment of the wooden poles. Additionally, wooden poles are also vulnerable to natural disasters - in the earlier mentioned ice storm, over 30,000 wooden poles were found to have collapsed in addition to the steel ones. In the last few years, research has been conducted into the use of various other materials for utility poles even as wood, steel and concrete remained popular choices. But while all of them have their advantages, they also come with distinct disadvantages.

Concrete, for example, is strong, fire resistant and termite/rot proof, but has as previously mentioned, other disadvantages. Galvanized steel offers similar advantages as concrete, while also being lighter. However, it is also expensive, energy intensive to make, and hazardous since it conducts electricity. Wood, traditionally a popular material for utility poles, is also prone to decay and termite attacks, besides having low resistance to fire when unprotected.

All these factors have led to the development of new materials such as fibre reinforced polymer (FRP), which have proved to offer durability even during high intensity typhoons. For example, in the Rammasun typhoon mentioned earlier, a group of FRP utility poles were found to stand firm even when exposed to strong winds. These poles are made of a special kind of high-strength, high-flexibility polyurethane (PU) composite material called ‘Elastolit®’ developed by BASF. The poles have a strength that is easily 10 times greater than their weight and are only 250 kg, making them easy to transport and install them virtually anywhere. They are more durable and resilient than concrete poles, can withstand severe weather conditions and can also be optimized for specific conditions.

As in the case of Guangdong in China, replacing concrete poles with these FRP poles in areas facing high exposure to natural disasters in India has the potential to reduce the disruption caused to power supply during such events. To know more about BASF’s initiatives in this regard, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.