Sonepat (Haryana), July 26 (IANS) The Sports Authority of India (SAI) regional centre at Bahalgarh here was unusually quiet on Tuesday morning. The main entrance, manned by security guards, was closed.
Only people associated with the centre and authorised journalists were allowed inside.
Something bad had befallen, one felt as one entered the centre.
Everyone appeared busy but without the verve sportspeople usually display.
No one was willing to be drawn into talking about Narsingh Yadav and his room-mate at the centre Sandeep Yadav — the two wrestlers both of whom have failed the dope test conducted by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
There is silence too at the main wrestling room where only two boys were practising, rather desultorily.
The room is adorned with pictures of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, the two wrestlers who have won India Olympic medals.
This was the room in which Narsingh Yadav had been preparing for Rio Olympics before a failed dope test brought his hopes crashing down.
Now, he is waiting to hear what punishment lies in store for him. NADA is scheduled to announce the punishment on Wednesday.
Narsingh will not go to Rio. Sports Minister Vijay Goel said on Monday that India will be represented in Rio Olympics by 119 sportspeople (and not the earlier 120). That was a clear indication that Narsingh’s name had been struck off the list.
Now there will be no representation for India in the 74 kg category that the country was hoping to get a medal in. The great promise of a young wrestler, on which rode the hopes of a country, has been snuffed out.
Narsingh is found to have used a banned steroid. He has denied any wrongdoing and said the failed dope test was the result of a conspiracy against him.
He was not at the Sonepat centre. But some of his sport-mates said Narsingh could never do what he has been accused of and that the conspiracy angle must be probed.
One of them, who did not want to be named, told IANS that the day he learnt he had failed the dope test, Narsingh was a broken man who even wanted to kill himself to escape the notoriety that would come with the fiasco.
“He is a self-respecting boy and a fighter. He wanted to win respect and honour for his country and his family. He has achieved everything so far without doping and he is proud of that. He can never do such a thing.”
Narsingh’s mate said the news that he tested positive for a banned steroid really shattered him.
“He couldn’t bear the thought of being disgraced in this manner. He wanted to commit suicide and had to be dissuaded from taking any such action by his coach (Jagmal Singh) and the centre’s senior members.”
He said the officials of the centre and the SAI have since been keeping an eye on Narsingh.
Jagmal said it could not have been anything but a conspiracy against Narsingh, but it’s more than that. “It’s a conspiracy against the discipline of wrestling and one against the country.”
Asked if Narsingh ever feared someone would try to get back at him after he won the legal battle against Sushil Kumar to go to Rio, an official of the centre said: “No. He never expressed such a fear.”
“The SAI did give him the choice of shifting to Mumbai — to the Kandivali centre. Narsingh chose to remain at Sonepat centre. He said there was no better place for training than Sonepat,” said the official.
Somveer Singh, who maintains the main wrestling room, said: “He is an amazing boy. He has been obsessed with winning India an Olympic gold medal.”
The whole affair has filled many people at the centre with a deep sense of disquiet.
This sense of disquiet will not leave those who are interested in the sport of wrestling for a long time — even after the Sonepat centre regains its buzz.
(Jayant K. Singh is special correspondent with IANS and writes on sports. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)