The postponement of Tokyo Olympics to 2021 has handed Narsingh Yadav a lifeline and the dope-tainted wrestler on Thursday said he will make full use of the “golden chance” after the federation announced that it won’t come in the way of his return.
If the Olympics was to be held as scheduled in July-August this year, Yadav would not have got the chance to compete due to his four-year doping ban which ends in July.
But now he has a full year to make his case in the 74kg category after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the Games. India is yet to secure an Olympic quota in the division which was once dominated by Sushil Kumar, the country’s lone double Olympic-medallist who is now on the wane.
The Wrestling Federatiom of India (WFI) has also said that it won’t stop Yadav from making a comeback.
“I always had the belief that if I have not done anything wrong, no wrong will happen with me. The truth always wins. Now you see by God’s grace, I have got this chance again out of nowhere,” Yadav told PTI from Mumbai where he is training with his coach Jagmal Singh.
“Somehow, I had this feeling inside me that I will get to compete in the Olympics. I don’t know why, but I always had this feeling. I am completely focussed on my comeback and determined to win a medal at the Tokyo Games,” he added.
Yadav was handed a four-year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in August 2016 for failing a dope test, which had been ruled as sabotage by the National Anti-Doping Agency.
The ban came about due to an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) just hours before his bout was to start at the Rio Olympic Games. He got there after a bitter selection row, involving Sushil.
Yadav had even accused the two-time Olympic medallist of trying to sabotage his career after failing the dope test, an allegation which was never proved.
The WFI said it would be happy to have him back despite the past scandal.
“We will not stop him if he comes to us and says that he wants to compete. We have discussed it. After his ban period is over, he will be eligible for a comeback,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told PTI.
Yadav maintained that he did not do anything wrong. “Why would I be so silly? No one believed me, the government should have done something about it. But now I have got this golden chance. I have done well in 74kg. I have kept an eye on all international wrestlers in my category.
“I know who is applying what technique, I keep watching their videos on Youtube. I am prepared to take them on,” he declared.
“I have not competed but I have been training with dedication. I had qualified (For Rio games) by winning a bronze medal at the worlds (2015) with my hard work. I am confident that not only will I qualify for the Olympics but also stand on the podium.”
Sharing his frustration during the ban-period, Narsingh Yadav said, “I lost all my sponsors. Everyone deserted me but I did not lose hope. It was a tough period but my wife supported me, friends and my coach kept me going.
“I was brought down from a high level. But now I have a chance to make a grand comeback,” he said adding that his employer Maharashtra Police supported him.
Narsingh Yadav, now 31, said he missed the mat competition but kept himself in shape by competing in local ‘dangals’.
“Wrestling is my life. I started from scratch and did considerably well in my career, winning medals at all levels. I competed in dangals and will be back on the mat soon. Once the ban period is over, I will request WFI to let me try and compete in Olympic qualification events,” he said.
“I also plan to compete at the Nationals.”