Bajrang replies to NADA, exposure trip & funds on hold

Things that should worry Bajrang and his team are the restrictions that usually accompany a provisional suspension.
Wrestler Bajrang Punia
Wrestler Bajrang PuniaFile Photo | AP

CHENNAI: It seems Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia will be in India for now. His proposal for a training stint in Dagestan, Russia, apparently has been put on hold initially after there was a whereabouts failure confusion in the first half of April and later after he was served with notice of provisional suspension for ‘refusing’ to give his urine sample during selection trials.

What seemed interesting was that in a late April Mission Olympic Cell meeting, wherein it was minuted that he chose to defer his journey by 35 days from April 24 due to his conflicting travel dates because of whereabouts failure.

This assumed more significance after he was provisionally suspended by the National Anti-Doping Agency for not giving the urine sample during the selection trials held in Sonepat on March 10. The trials were organised to pick up the national teams for the Olympic Qualifiers. The NADA had given him until May 7 to reply to the provisional suspension notice, which was sent on Tuesday evening. Confirming this, sports lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, who is representing the multiple world medallist, said they have also requested an early hearing.

Vidushpat also cleared the confusion regarding the whereabouts failure. “He (Bajrang) received a notice from the National Anti-Doping Agency for three whereabouts failures,” the lawyer told this daily. “Then we found out that NADA was wrong and intimated the same to them. We wrote to them that there are no three failures and subsequently NADA withdrew the notice.”

Things that should worry Bajrang and his team are the restrictions that usually accompany a provisional suspension. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, a provisionally suspended athlete cannot be funded by the government. The athlete cannot use government sports facilities even for training. He cannot compete in any sporting activity of the National Sports Federation or its affiliated units. Not even in exhibition events.

“Ineligible Athletes cannot participate in a training camp, exhibition or practice organized by their National Federation or a club which is a member of that National Federation or which is funded by a governmental agency,” the WADA Code explains under 10.14.1. In fact, he cannot be coached by a coach who is employed or funded by the government.

Usually, the sports ministry and Sports Authority of India stop funding, including OPA (Out of Pocket Allowance), to a provisionally suspended athlete. Final call is taken after the conclusion of hearing. And if the decision is in favour of the athlete then he will get his funds with arrears. Bajrang is a Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) athlete and though the list still has his name it needs to be seen how SAI reacts to this development.

It is understood that the SAI had cleared his foreign exposure trip to Dagestan in early April before the whereabouts notice was served and later withdrawn. The provisional suspension notice was dated April 23 but it is learnt that Bajrang received it only by around May 1 or 2. As of now, there is no exposure trip, nor can he compete.

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