Shobhha De’s series of ‘well-timed’ tweets deploring Indian athletes’ performances at the Olympics was roundly castigated by the Twitteratti with Abhinav Bindra and Sachin Tendulkar joining the discordant chorus.
“The athletes give their best in their efforts to win a medal. All the Indian athletes in Rio 2016 have my support. They work for years and years but when you miss out narrowly, you obviously feel bad.
When the results don’t go your way, that is when you need to support them.
The first half didn’t go our way but you have to support them when the chips are down.”
But there can’t be smoke without fire (not unless it’s dry ice, of course).
Five days into the Games and the medals tally still shows nought against India’s listing.
The shooters have disappointed sorely with only Abhinav Bindra coming close to a bronze and Dipa Karmakar making the vault final in gymnastics.
The archers continue to keep Indians back home waiting for their maiden medal despite years of selection and training to promote this ancient art and its modern avatar.
The London Olympics saw India claim six medals—two in shooting, two in wrestling and one each in badminton and boxing.
The expectations were that the Indian contingent of 119 would clinch at least seven this time.
That’s less than a six per cent chance of a medal for our sports-persons.
Is that what’s to be expected from our competitors—that 94 per cent of them are to be no-hopers and just make up the numbers and soak in the sights?
Admittedly, the qualification marks have been made stiffer in recent times and for most Indian athletes from sports other than cricket, a chance to participate in the Olympics is the highlight of their low-storied careers.
But surely we can and should demand more from them. Surely at least 25% of them should be realistic medal contenders and the rest should be earmarked as talents for the future sent to assimilate the ethos and pressure of the Games so that they are not overcome with stage fright the next time around.
The qualification marks too could be made a lot more stringent than the minimum needed.
Yes, De’s remarks were ill-advised and probably nothing more than a publicity stunt. It’s a wonder whether our Indian athletes would worry too much about a socialite columnist otherwise.
Perhaps, it’s time Ms. De penned a novella on the state of Indian sport and its heroes (and heroines) rather than her much-beloved Bollywood which conversely draws significant inspiration (and box-office success) from the annals of Indian sport in recent times.
The first lady of the Reliance group was voted in as an individual member in Rio on Thursday polling 92.2% valid votes among eight candidates.
What does being an individual member entail?
The Olympic website states:
“The IOC members, natural persons, are representatives of the IOC in their respective countries, and not their country’s delegate within the IOC. As stated in the Olympic Charter: ‘Members of the IOC represent and promote the interests of the IOC and of the Olympic Movement in their countries and in the organisations of the Olympic Movement in which they serve.’”
So it’s not really a victory for the nation per se—if one wants to nitpick—but actually a shrewd move both by Nita Ambani and the Olympic Committee.
Evidently the committee considers India to be an important cog in its scheme of matters in years to come.
And Nita Ambani gains some legitimacy in the eyes of her numerous detractors and critics who consider her a privileged interloper in the world of Indian sport—not that she cares.
“I am truly humbled and overwhelmed to be elected by the IOC. This is a recognition of the growing importance of India in the world stage and a recognition for Indian women.
I have always believed in the power of sport to shape our youth. I believe that sports brings together communities, cultures, and generations has the power to unify and unite people. I look forward to spreading the spirit of Olympics and sports across our nation.
I’m working really with multi-sports in India. We want to encourage many other games besides cricket in India like football and basketball and let children be exposed to all kinds of games. So I’m looking forward to building a movement in sports for children in India.’’
She is the only current active Indian member in the IOC and the first Indian woman.
The IOC has 90 members, 36 honorary members and 1 honour member.
Honorary members are usually former members.
Dr. Henry Kissinger is the only honour member of the Committee.
Narsingh Pancham Yadav can consider himself very, very fortunate.
Few expected National Anti-Doping Agency’s (NADA) disciplinary panel to be lenient with the grappler from Mumbai.
But NADA have been benevolent in ruling in favour of the 26-year-old wrestler exonerating him—giving him the benefit of the doubt— by accepting his version of sabotage by a fellow competitor.
Section 10.4 of NADA’s Anti-Doping Rules (2015) states:
10.4 Elimination of the Period of Ineligibility where there is No Fault or
If an Athlete or other Person establishes in an individual case that he or she bears No Fault or Negligence, then the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility shall be eliminated.
[Comment to Article 10.4: This Article and Article 10.5.2 apply only to the imposition of sanctions; they are not applicable to the determination of whether an anti-doping rule violation has occurred. They will only apply in exceptional circumstances, for example where an Athlete could prove that, despite all due care, he or she was sabotaged by a competitor.
Conversely, No Fault or Negligence would not apply in the following circumstances: (a) a positive test resulting from a mislabelled or contaminated vitamin or nutritional supplement
(Athletes are responsible for what they ingest (Article 2.1.1) and have been warned against the possibility of supplement contamination); (b) the Administration of a Prohibited Substance by the Athlete’s personal physician or trainer without disclosure to the Athlete
(Athletes are responsible for their choice of medical personnel and for advising medical personnel that they cannot be given any Prohibited Substance); and (c) sabotage of the Athlete’s food or drink by a spouse, coach or other Person within the Athlete’s circle of associates (Athletes are responsible for what they ingest and for the conduct of those Persons to whom they entrust access to their food and drink). However, depending on the unique facts of a particular case, any of the referenced illustrations could result in a reduced sanction under Article 10.5 based on No Significant Fault or Negligence.]
Had Yadav been found guilty, he would have been banned for the full period of four years.
Yadav and his fellow wrestlers celebrated by partaking of sweets outside the agency’s office.
But it’s not all clear for Rio as yet.
Chander Shekhar Luthra of DNA writes:
“…World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has so far refused to bow down to allegations of ‘sabotage’, keeping in mind that such a decision could well cause an irreparable loss to the ‘battle against doping’ at the international level.”
A retired Nada official said:
“What if the entire Russia stand together and say there was a deep conspiracy against their 100 athletes? What if Maria Sharapova now cites the ‘conspiracy’ angle by her opponents in her case that is being heard by Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS)?”
NADA’s rules state that appeals can be filed to both CAS and the National Anti-Doping Appeal Panel within a period of 21 days.
The latter’s unlikely—it would be tantamount to NADA challenging its own decision—but appeals can be made to CAS by WADA, the international Wrestling Federation United World Wrestling and the IOC; there exists no other apparent affected party in the above proceedings.
NADA lawyer Gaurang Kanth complained “he was not allowed to cross-examine Narsingh on the sabotage angle”.
Yadav had tested positive for the anabolic steroid — methandienone — in both his A and B samples.
NADA DG Naveen Agarwal read out the panel’s verdict:
“We kept in mind that in the past, till June 2, none of his samples were positive. It was inconceivable that one-time ingestion would be of benefit. Therefore the panel is of the view that the one-time ingestion was not intentional.”
Jitesh Kumar,the 17-year-old accused of spiking Yadav’s drinks is a trainee at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar supervises the wrestlers there. An FIR has already been filed by Yadav at the Rai police station in Haryana.
The Court for Arbitration in Sports (CAS) has pronounced its verdict.
The IAAF-imposed ban on the Russian Athletics Federation stays.
No Russian track-and-field athlete will be competing in Rio—at least, not under their national flag.
The International Olympic Committee will decide the fate of the Russian contingent when it meets today.
The CAS judgment is non-binding on the Committee.
WADA and predominantly western nations’ Olympic Committees are vocally in favour of a blanket ban on the rogue nation given clear and damning evidence of state-sponsored collusion in doping. They feel that the IOC must exhibit ‘zero–tolerance‘ towards systematic doping by any state.
National Olympic Committees have been banned before—simply not for drug-related scandals.
Collective responsibility should not come at the cost of individual justice—the IOC is seeking a balance.
The Russian public believes that their country is being discriminated against by the Western world. They cannot accept that all their athletes are drugged.
A sanction against all Russian competitors would be unfair to those abiding by the rule book.
While the IOC has several options before arriving at a final decision, a simple solution would be to allow the Russians to participate—both under their national banner and the Olympic one but have each one of their athletes subjected to both in-competition and out-of-competition testing.
This would allow clean athletes to breathe freely and hopefully deter sportspersons who are doping.
This would also send a strong message to errant national sports federations everywhere that unless they clean up their act, their athletes and their fellow countrymen will be treated like Caesar’s wife—not above suspicion.
Simply leaving the decision to international sports federations burdens them further and not all of them are fully equipped to make an informed decision on the matter.
Whatever the IOC’s decision, there will be no pleasing everyone.
That’s a given.
It’s back to school for our national shooters.
Headmaster Raninder Singh, NRAI president, has cracked the whip.
Air rifle, pistol and shotgun shooters have to minimally attend 70% of the training camps.
Else they will not be allowed to represent the country at international events.
The immediate trigger for this rule change are the “baseless” sexual harassment charges against national coach Stanislav Lapidus by Anjali Bhagwat, Suma Shirur, Sanjeev Rajput, Ayonika Paul, Lajja Gauswami, Tejaswani Sawant and Kuheli Ganguly.
“When you don’t attend the national camps, how can you accuse him (Lapidus) of not attending to you? Most of the time our top shooters remain absent from the camp.”
The rule affects ‘hobbyist‘ Abhinav Bindra and army shooters Jitu Rai and Vijay Kumar most.
The policy , however, is quite progressive—for an Indian body.
Young and single mothers can miss camp during emergencies.
20 elite shooters had skipped the recently conducted senior national camp in Thiruvananthapuram.
At the same camp, 14 army shooters had received orders to report back to their units for selection to the World Military Games in South Korea from October 2-11.
The trials were scheduled for July 2. The national camp concluded on July 6.
An NRAI representative said:
“The Army told us about their selection trials at the last minute. NRAI was always clear in its scheduling that the shooters will have to report for the camp after the World Cup trials. Army never informed us in advance about their trials, otherwise we would have worked out a solution. NRAI has requested them to postpone their trials by a week so that their shooters can report to them after July 6.”
The Army later rescinded its orders.
The shooting camp was also hit by a food poisoning episode with at least 12 participants hospitalized.
Gagan Narang, Jitu Rai, Apurvi Chandela and Abhinav Bindra are the only shooters to have secured quota places for the Rio Olympics based on their international performances.
A maximum of 30 quota places (two each) in 15 disciplines are available to every country.
It was 1988. It was the Summer Olympics in Seoul. Johnson had set the 100 meters world record of 9.83 seconds the previous year. Johnson, however, had injury problems coming into the Games. A hamstring injury had plagued him the whole season.
Johnson won. He also set a new world record: 9.79 seconds.
And then it ended almost as soon as it began.
The man was a cheat.
Johnson’s blood and urine samples were found to contain stanozolol.
The last citadel had been breached.
The Olympics , when it first begun, was celebrated as a coming together of amateur athletes under the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for “Faster,Higher, Stronger.”
Amateurism made way for professionalism beginning gradually in the 1970s.
Sport was no longer clean or for fun. It was competition–cutthroat competition.
Every millisecond, every millimeter counted.
1988 also saw the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declaring all professional athletes eligible for the Olympics, subject to the approval of the international federations in charge of each sport.
Only soccer and baseball disallow pros at the Olympics.
Thus began the age of disillusion.
If Johnson could cheat, then how many others?
Reports of systematic doping in East European countries did nothing to counteract such perceptions.
More recently, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor, indulged in blood doping throughout his career.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Armstrong says:
“I’m that guy everybody wants to pretend never lived. But it happened, everything happened. We know what happened. Now it’s swung so far the other way… who’s that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort? It’s like that on every level. If you watch the Tour on American TV, if you read about it, it’s as if you can’t mention him.”
The Texan is riling his opponents once more by participating in the One Day Ahead ride, cycling part of the Tour de France route. The ride raises money to fight leukemia.
It is time we admit that we cannot hold our sporting heroes to a higher standard. They engage in a profession where every bit done can make a difference between winning and losing, between being the face of a shoe brand or simply being an also-ran.
Our modern-day heroes have feet of clay. We should learn to expect that they will disappoint us someday. They cannot be placed on a pedestal.
“But wait,”, you say, “these are the very personas my kids look up to.”
Yes, but isn’t that a reflection of the society and times we live in?
Children look up to actors and rock stars too. Are they held to a higher standard?
Then why sports persons?
Shouldn’t we teach our kids to look for heroes elsewhere? Real-life heroes.
What he said:
“I’m not concerned – he just makes dumb decisions.”
Michael Phelps’ compatriot and Swimming USA teammate Ryan Lochte is critical of his second misdemeanor in ten years. Earlier this week, the Olympic legend was booked for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). He has since issued an apology to his fans.
“He has so much money to get a driver. I even have a driver. It just stinks for the sport of swimming.
But he will become smarter from this. Luckily he did not hurt himself or someone else.”
Lochte later tempered his remarks tweeting thus:
What he really meant:
“You’ve got to admit being booked twice for DUI is stupid. Especially when you know that as a celebrity you are under the scanner every moment. Consider the endorsements he could possibly lose. Besides, he could have killed someone, you know. That’s the most important thing.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Don’t worry, Michael. You could always make do with some breathalyser and beer endorsements instead. And how about an appearance in a public interest campaign, ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’?”
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The BCCI have been roundly criticised for their decision to abstain from the 16th Asian Games at Guangzhou. India are the only major Asian cricketing superpower to not send a team. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have squads representing their respective countries.
The BCCI bailed out claiming that they did not want to send a second string team since the Games clashed with the India – New Zealand Test and ODI series. The Ranji trophy is also scheduled around the same time—sending a team would rob the tournament of it’s sheen.