India could lose a Paris Olympics quota as one boxer accused of anti-doping rule violation


India is fighting to save one of the four Paris Olympics berths it has earned in boxing after it emerged that a World Championship and Asian Games medallist has been accused of an anti-doping rule violation.

The International Test Agency (ITA), which is overseeing the anti-doping programme for boxing at the Olympics, alleged the said boxer did not file her whereabouts details as per the World Anti-Doping Agency rules. The alleged rule violation took place last year before the Asian Games.

According to WADA rules, athletes have to disclose their home address, training information and location, competition schedule and regular personal activities to an anti-doping agency, which can conduct surprise visits and tests out of competition. Failure to do so, or even submitting incomplete details, could lead to a suspension of up to two years.

The boxer in question is one of India’s leading names and has recorded podium finishes at the World Championship and Asian Championship apart from last year’s Asian Games, where the Olympic quota was won.

However, if the ITA decides to sanction the boxer, India could lose the spot as per the rules. Boxing Federation of India secretary general Hemanta Kalita said they are in talks with the world body and trying to put up a strong case in the boxer’s defence.

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“So far, no quota has been taken away from India. We are working hard to ensure we keep the quota,” Kalita told The Indian Express. “We have filed our replies and talks are ongoing. No decision has been taken yet but we are trying to make sure the quota stays.”

Sports lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, who is representing the boxer, said they ‘are in talks with the ITA about the situation’, without giving further details.

When asked about the status of the case and if India would have to surrender the quota, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – which is conducting the boxing event at the Olympics – said: “As anti-doping matters have been made independent from the IOC, we refer you to the ITA and WADA.”

WADA said ‘these questions would be questions for the relevant results management authority’, pointing to the ITA, which did not reply to an emailed questionnaire.

Four Indian boxers have so far qualified for the Olympics, which begin in July 26 — Nikhat Zareen (flyweight), Preeti Sai Pawar (bantamweight), Parveen Hooda (featherweight) and Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain (middleweight). The final Olympic qualification tournament begins in Bangkok on May 25.

The boxer who has been accused of the doping rule violation has not stepped into the ring for a competitive bout since her medal round at the Asian Games last October even as the others have routinely competed abroad.

In fact, she stayed back in India at the last minute despite her name featuring in the list for the Elorda Cup, which is currently underway in Kazakhstan.

She, however, has been constantly present at camps and has travelled for international training stints with the rest of the team. “She continues to be a part of our programme and we are keeping her in the zone so that she remains sharp if the decision comes in her favour,” a team official said.

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