Continuing to back dope-tainted wrestler Narsingh Yadav, a top Wrestling Federation of India official today claimed the 74-kg freestyle wrestler would have clinched the silver medal had he taken part in the Rio Olympics instead of being banned for four years by the CAS.
"Narsingh would have won at least a silver medal, I can assure you that," said WFI secretary V N Prasood here on the sidelines of a press conference to announce a world level prize money event.
Narsingh was exonerated on doping charges at home by NADA which upheld his claim that his food/drink during his stay while training for the Games at Sonepat in Haryana had been spiked with the banned substance, which he had injected.
World Anti Doping Agency challenged the clean chit given to Narsingh by its Indian affiliate at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Rio a day before he was set to take part in his weight class bouts.
CAS threw him out of the Games and also slapped a four-year ban on the Indian grappler after he failed to produce any "real evidence" regarding the sabotage theory he had presented.
In its ruling, the ad hoc panel of the CAS relied on expert evidence that Narsingh's dope offence was not due to one-time ingestion of the prohibited substance and its concentration in the first test result (of June 25) was so high that it had to come from an oral ingestion of one or two tablets of methandienone, rather than from a drink where the powder had been mixed with water.
Explaining the chronology of events leading to his ban Prasood said, "On August 18 Narsingh gave a medical at noon and had his weight-in at 1.30 pm. His name was even there in the fixtures. At 8.30 pm in the night CAS released their judgement.
"CAS told him give your weight, don't worry about anything in the afternoon, we'll give a result at night. So why should we have been thinking about it (ban)," asked Prasood when reporters questioned him on the matter.
"That's when we actually thought that after 21st they will take any action, (that) if they want to punish they will take away medal if Narsingh had won any medal," he said. (More)
"The judgment was unexpected. If only they had given this verdict earlier, we could have sent Praveen Rana," he said.
Prasood defended WFI by saying Narsingh had been cleared to take part by the Indian Olympic Association, International Olympic Committee and world wrestling body, United World Wrestling before he was sent on the flight to Rio.
"There is no fault on part of the federation. NADA is the final authority on doping in India, they gave Narsingh clearance. WADA didn't directly do anything against our wrestler, they appealed to CAS.
"UWW gave its nod for Narsingh's participation, IOC gave its approval. After getting these two approvals, how could we have stopped Narsingh from going to Rio?
"We didn't send Narsingh with our other wrestlers as we were waiting for WADA to make a move. But they didn't do anything. If WADA wanted to appeal, why didn't they appeal before 10th?
"How many days does WADA have to appeal? On August 2 we had a result from NADA, inside 24 hours WADA received the result. Narsingh left the country for Rio on 10th. WADA didn't do a thing against Narsingh until the 13th. They filed an appeal on 13th, federation didn't get any information till the 16th," he elaborated.
"We even named Praveen Rana as a replacement just in case Narsingh would have some issues going," he said, adding "Someone from India informed WADA that NADA only cleared Narsingh due to political pressure. That's why WADA appealed.
"If we had sent Praveen Rana instead, and he had lost earlier, the media only would have questioned me that why Narsingh wasn't sent despite getting clearance," he said.
Giving another twist to the episode, Prasood said the banned drug found in Narsingh's system was generally taken by people in their fifties to gain weight.
"This is not a drug to be used by an athlete. It's a drug taken by people who are over 55 years of age to gain body weight. Narsingh is already 76 kgs and he participates in the 74kg category. Why will he use it," the WFI secretary wondered, adding it indicated that he was "intentionally given the drug by someone."
"NADA told us they got information on July 4 that Narsingh was using a banned substance. But they still haven't sent the federation a copy of the letter," Prasood said.