It was never meant to be an All-Fools Day joke. As the sports ministry Monday asked the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) to carry out a test on Beijing Olympics bronze medallist and India's best known boxing star Vijender Singh - for the reported use of heroin - he features as a celebrity anti-drugs campaigner on the April page of the official calendar of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
The NCB calendar, which features several leading Indian sports personalities, has Vijender's action photograph and his message against drug abuse: "Drug abuse is a major challenge to the well being of our society and nation. Just say NO."
The describes Vijender Singh as: "Indian Olympic boxer, won Bronze medal in 2008 Beijing Olympics; won bronze medal in 2006 Asian Games; Recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (India's highest sporting award) 2009."
The NCB, a central agency under the home ministry, is responsible for combating abuse of and illicit traffic in narcotic drugs in the country.
On Monday, in a communication sent to the director general of NADA, the sports ministry said reports have appeared in the media regarding alleged consumption of heroin by the pugilist.
"Such reports in respect of a sporting icon are disturbing and may have a debilitating influence on other sportspersons in the country. It has, therefore, been considered necessary that NADA gets a test carried out on Shri Vijender Singh for his reported use of heroin even out-of-competition. The communication has asked NADA to carry out the test immediately under intimation to the ministry," a statement from the ministry said.
The Punjab Police which recently busted an international drugs racket worth nearly Rs.500 crore, has alleged that Vijender allegedly consumed heroin 12 times from December 2012 to February 2013 while his boxing colleague Ram Singh took it five times.
"In investigations, it has been established that boxers Ram Singh and Vijender Singh took heroin from (arrested Canada-based drug dealer) Anoop Singh Kahlon and Rocky for personal consumption between December 2012 and February 2013. As per investigation conducted so far, Vijender Singh consumed the drug about 12 times and Ram Singh about five times," the Punjab Police claimed.
Till recently, Vijender Singh's name was mentioned in Haryana's sporting, political and police circles as a sports star, a youth icon and as a hero following his exploits in the boxing ring at the international level. But a heroin haul by the Punjab Police early March changed a lot of that.
In the past one week, Vijender, who is an under-training deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in the Haryana Police, has become a suspect in the drugs haul case being investigated by the Punjab Police.
Vijender was chosen as the brand icon of the Haryana election department in Oct 2011. His success as a boxer and he being inducted into the Haryana Police as a DSP was also projected by the Haryana government and the police. Given his sporting success and good looks, Vijender rubbed shoulders with Bollywood stars, celebrities and VIPs at various functions and social events.
His popularity was such that Vijender had Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attending his wedding at New Delhi's Flying Club in May 2011. Vijender had run into controversy at that time after his wedding reception cards carried the national emblem.
Even though the Punjab Police categorically says that the boxer has nothing to do with the illegal drugs racket busted recently, his name figured in the drugs haul controversy on two counts. One, his wife Archana's SUV was found outside the flat from where the police found the big drugs consignment and secondly, his fellow boxer Ram Singh, during his questioning by the Punjab police, made startling disclosures about Vijender and him taking heroin from Kahlon.
Vijender was in a denial mode, claiming complete innocence in this matter from day one but what has made things complicated for him is that he refused to give his blood and hair samples to the Punjab Police investigators who questioned him last month for nearly four hours, for laboratory analysis.