OLD COAST: What started as a simple ‘needle issue’ turned into a fiasco as the Indian contingent kept coming up with different explanations. Every time someone asked why Rakesh Babu and KT Irfan were ejected from the Games Village, officials had different answers. By night, the controversy got murkier. The defence was incoherent and at times hilarious.
They want to appeal but not sure on what ground. Maybe Irfan’s case can be argued but beyond that nothing. Till late night, they were drafting an appeal.
After the Commonwealth Games Federation released a statement saying race-walker Irfan and triple jumper Rakesh were asked to leave the Village and their accreditation was suspended after they were found breaching the no-needle policy, the Indian contingent first corroborated the statement — that the needle was found in a cup on a shared table in the room of the two athletes and then a syringe was found in Rakesh’s bag.
The problem started later. Chef de mission Vikram Singh Sisodia called a press meet at 1.30pm (9am IST). He was struggling to explain. Soon he had to hand over the mike to general team manager Namdev Shirgaonkar, who said all athletes had signed Village guidelines. Needle policy, apparently, was part of it. However, guidelines Express is privy to did not have this relevant portion.
Then they started playing the victimisation card. Shirgaonkar mentioned wrestler Vikas Thakur, saying he was forced to attend an inquiry hours before leaving for India.
“They asked us to bring him and threatened us of dire consequence if we did not,” said Shirgaonkar.
“They checked his bags and questioned him.” He hinted that Indians were unfairly targeted.
Deputy chief national athletics coach Radhakrishnan Nair seconded it.
“We’ve been tested regularly for the last month.” Athletes had been told not to carry needles, officials said.
While trying to defend the presence of the syringe, the IOA by night said it was for insulin. Nair discussed his medical history to the media rather than giving a plausible explanation. He said he was diabetic and carried insulin injections. “I declared it at the polyclinic here,” he said. Believe it or not, he said all six in the apartment should have been banned, not two.
Athletics manager Ravinder Chaudhry seemed sanest of the lot. He questioned Irfan’s suspension. But the explanation for the syringe was more perplexing. Apparently, the syringe was from Patiala. The athlete told them since he kept changing the bag the syringe was mistakenly left behind. But why was it used in Patiala? Later, Chaudhry too said it was for insulin.
Insulin, too, is classified as a banned substance. Whether it was deliberate or a Freudian slip has to be seen. Whether it puts the athletes in more trouble also has to be seen.
The management is perplexed as to why Irfan was banned when the syringe was found in Rakesh’s bag. “There is confusion, why our athletes were banned. Why was Irfan banned when the syringe was found in Rakesh’s bag,” Chaudhry said.
“The testimony of the athletes (Rakesh and Irfan) who denied all knowledge of the needle in the cup in Bedroom 2 and further testimony of Rakesh Babu that he had no knowledge of the syringe found in his bag are both unreliable and evasive,” said the CGF statement. Going by the explanation of the officials, it definitely seems ‘evasive’.
This episode comes on the heels of another incident just before the Games, when a syringe was found near a room where a couple of boxers were staying. The CGF had only issued a warning. This time the CGF ‘reprimanded’ three officials — Sisodia, Chaudhry and Shirgaonkar — and the two athletes.