Ever since the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) decided to back Narsingh Yadav of two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar for the Rio Olympics in May this year, well-wishers and even the officials of Sports Authority of India (SAI) had been suggesting to the former that he should not train at the national camp but return to his base in Mumbai.
The officials feared that if the 26-year-old stayed in SAI’s Sonepat centre, there was a chance of foul play. There was such a paranoia around the issue that the authorities requested the Haryana Police to provide additional security Narsingh during his stay at the centre and ensure that he was not attacked for forcefully injured.
The physical safety aspects were well taken care of but the positive dope test of Narsingh just a fortnight before his Rio Olympics bout has given rise to allegations of sabotage and conspiracy to keep him out of the Games and tarnish his image.
Mind you, this is not just a stand that Narsingh has taken after the positive dope test results, but almost everyone in the wrestling fraternity believes that the World Championship bronze medallist must have been framed ahead of the Olympics.
And the one dominating reason behind the thought process is that fact that Narsingh Pancham Yadav was a perennial outsider at the Sonepat centre where the ‘pehelwans’ from Haryana and Punjab had been the dominant force for decades now.
It is said that Narsingh Pancham Yadav, son of a milkman from Mumbai, always looked out of place, since he joined the centre for national camps over a decade ago. The diminutive wrestler was always made to feel that he was a misfit in the group of Haryanvi wrestlers and initially struggled to communicate with the wrestlers from the adjoining region due to the language barriers. He would then repeatedly request for his coach in Mumbai, Jagmal Singh, to accompany him for the camps but those requests were always turned down.
While Narsingh was looked at as a good sparring partner, nobody really gave him a chance to make it big on the international stage and it was sheer act of fate that took him to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. He had lost the final selection bout and ended up competing only after another wrestler, Sumit, was caught doping at the last minute.
Since then Narsingh has represented India the Asian Games and Olympics, and though it should have cemented his place in the squad, he never got the respect he deserved. Hence when the United World Wrestling Federation announced the change in weight categories for Rio Olympics, Sushil Kumar was quick to move up a few kgs to Narsingh’s category of 74 kg.
Narsingh was initially asked to shift to a higher weight category to accommodate Sushil and even though he tried his best to do that, he returned to his main category a few months later. However, the Federation once again left Narsingh in the lurch when they did not even bother to hold a trial for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and sent Sushil, instead of Narsingh.
It was only after Narsingh won the bronze medal in the World Championship, a tournament he played only because of the shoulder injury to Sushil, that the campers began to take notice of this diminutive wrestler who could win a championship bronze medal.
Though the medal helped him gain some respect among the campers, he always lived in fear of being replaced by Sushil before the Games.
That did not happen and the federation officials backed him up against the strong Haryana lobby. But all the respect Narsingh earned with his stellar performances over the years is now under threat with the positive dope test.
Narsingh was quick to point out that there was a conspiracy against him. But if he cannot prove that to the NADA disciplinary panel on Wednesday, then he will be thrown out of the top echelons of Indian wrestling rather unceremoniously.
The outsider would then also become an outcast.