Bajrang Punia provisionally suspended by NADA, can he still qualify for Paris Olympics?

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Bajrang Punia’s chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics have taken a hit after the National Anti-Doping Agency [NADA] placed him under provisional suspension over his non-cooperation during the national selection trials held in March.

This certainly is a big blow to his goal of making it to the Paris Olympics as he’s already missing this week’s Olympic Qualifiers, which is the last chance to seal the quota, and the current suspension could end the possibility of him getting a trial.

What exactly is the issue?

Bajrang, who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, had reportedly not submitted a urine sample to NADA officials during the selection trials in Sonepat on March 10. Bajrang had lost in the semifinals of the men’s 65kg category, which were held to determine the Indian squad for the Olympic qualifiers.

As per a social media post on Sunday, Bajrang said he “did not refuse to submit a urine sample” and instead, he had sought answers from the NADA officials for an earlier incident when they had brought an expired kit to conduct a dope test on him.

So, what does this mean for Bajrang?

The fact that Bajrang did not submit a sample when notified by an anti-doping authority will amount to an anti-doping rule violation as per the WADA code. Article 2.3 of the WADA code states that “Evading Sample collection; or refusing or failing to submit to Sample collection without compelling justification after notification by a duly authorized Person” will amount to an anti-doping rule violation.

A comment to Article 2.3 further adds, “It would be an anti-doping rule violation of “evading Sample collection” if it were established that an Athlete was deliberately avoiding a Doping Control official to evade notification or Testing. A violation of “failing to submit to Sample collection” may be based on either intentional or negligent conduct of the Athlete, while “evading” or “refusing” Sample collection contemplates intentional conduct by the Athlete.”

Bajrang allegedly refused to submit his urine sample, so as per the WADA code, that would be treated as intentional conduct. Hence, Bajrang has been provisionally suspended by NADA and is tasked with replying to them by May 7 to avoid further sanctions.

Can Bajrang still qualify for the Paris Olympics?

As it stands, Bajrang does not have a direct route to the Olympics. Sujeet Kalkal is India’s representative in the men’s 65kg freestyle at this week’s World Olympic Qualifier, which is the last chance for India’s wrestlers to win a quota for the Paris Games. If Sujeet wins a quota, then as per the WFI’s discretion, a final selection trial may or may not be held.

However, since Bajrang is provisionally suspended, he becomes ineligible to compete in any bouts. So, unless the suspension is lifted, Bajrang has no chance of competing in the selection trials [if one is held] or qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

What is the Wrestling Federation of India saying?

The WFI, which was recently recognized by United World Wrestling [UWW], alleges that they were not informed about the developments. Sanjay Singh, the WFI president, told PTI, “It’s really surprising that NADA did not keep us in the loop while suspending Bajrang. I had a meeting with NADA DG and other officials on April 25 and this matter was not raised in that meeting.”

Singh added that he would take the matter up with NADA as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA].

Interestingly, Bhupender Singh Bajwa, who led the now-dissolved ad-hoc committee in charge of the WFI, also claimed they were not informed about Bajrang’s suspension.



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