The hearing started after noon in Brazil on August 18. It would decide the most important question in Narsingh Yadav’s life and career. The hearing closed in the evening, around midnight in India. The Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) said the verdict would come at 8pm Brazil time. That is 4:30am IST.
But, before India went to bed, the clickbaits were out. A news agency fuelled the fire by quoting Narsingh’s lawyer and saying the wrestler was cleared. Ambiguous headlines appeared online. A man’s life had become fodder for clickbaits. As promised, the verdict came at 8pm. Banned. For four years.
The CAS panel refused to accept the argument that Narsingh was the victim of sabotage.
“There was no evidence that he bore no fault, nor that the anti-doping rule violation was not intentional. Therefore the standard 4-year period of ineligibility was imposed by the panel,” the CAS said in a statement.
Even as the clickbaits triggered a torrent of texts and phone calls, the Indian Olympic Association was clear that the ball was in the air. "We are very hopeful of a positive response. We have argued our case well. The meeting went on for four hours and the lawyers from WADA checked all the evidence and documents provided by us," IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta told the Press Trust of India.
Earlier in the week, Narsingh had told an official that he was dejected by the turn of events. The official asked him to look at it as a pre-Olympic bout. “I have been seeing the boy for a few months now, and he does not even eat or drink at public functions. He should have been scared,” the official said. “He told me, ‘They murdered me, sir.’” Other sources said there might be a criminal case filed back home, to look into the charge that Narsingh’s food was spiked.
Narsingh came to Rio after the National Anti-Doping agency had cleared him on special grounds, after he was tested positive for anabolic steroids. NADA upheld his submission that he had been a “victim of sabotage”.
In Rio, the World Anti-Doping Agency had taken exception to this and approached the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
India’s chef de mission Rakesh Gupta said earlier, “Narsingh came to Rio de Janeiro only with NADA’s clearance and the IOC and United World Wrestling’s approval. We then approached the Rio Olympic Organising Committee and filled in his entry form, after they gave the green light. Now, we have to wait and see what happens at the hearing at CAS.” Gupta was confident that Narsingh would be cleared, but said he was disappointed that WADA had moved CAS so late.
Before Narsingh left India for Brazil, national freestyle wrestling coach Jagminder Singh had told the media, “There would be no further reinstatement test ahead of his bout. If at all, then Narsingh’s samples may be taken after August 19 (the date of his first bout).”
Controversy had been dogging Narsingh, after he was picked for Rio by the Wrestling Federation of India ahead of two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar. Narsingh had booked his ticket by winning 74kg bronze at the World Championships last year. Sushil had said that he was more deserving of the ticket, but his demands for a wrestling trial were rejected by the WFI and the Delhi High Court.