Indian woman boxer L Sarita Devi was handed a one-year ban by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for refusing to accept her bronze medal at the Asian Games but the punishment is unlikely to hurt her career too badly as she would be available to compete in the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
Sarita, who had refused to accept the medal to protest her controversial semifinal bout loss, has been banned retrospectively from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2015 and fined 1000 swiss francs.
Although her repeated apologies failed in getting her AIBA’s pardon, even this ban is quite a relief for the lightweight (60kg) boxer, who is currently nursing a broken right wrist.
“I am hugely relieved and would like to thank the boxing fraternity and Boxing India for helping me sail through the difficult times. I will now be able to participate in the Olympic Games and work harder to bring laurels for the country,” Sarita said in a statement after the announcement of AIBA’s decision by Boxing India.
“The ban period starts from the day of medal ceremony, that is October 1, 2014. It is a huge relief that all the fears of her being banned for life or her career being over have not come true. She is now available to compete in the 2016 Women’s World Championships, which are also the Olympic qualifiers,” Boxing India president Sandeep Jajodia told reporters on Wednesday.
“She is out of action till February at least because of the wrist injury and after that she can train like usual and make a comeback once the ban period is over,” he added.
Also reprieved was national men’s coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, who had been provisionally suspended along with two other coaches, for not doing enough to restrain Sarita. AIBA’s disciplinary committee found him not guilty of the charge.
However, India’s Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes was not so lucky and was the worst hit by AIBA’s ire. The Cuban, who has been attached to the Indian men’s team, was banned for two years and fined 2000 swiss francs. His ban is also effective from October 1, 2014.
“Even if we push his case and try to get the punishment minimised, I don’t think it will work because he is a veteran coach and should have had a better idea of rules. For Sarita, one can say that she had an emotional outburst after losing the bout but he ought to have shown restraint,” Jajodia said.
AIBA’s disciplinary committee also banned Sarita’s personal coach Lenin Meitei for a year, while suspending her husband Thoiba Singh from the ringside for two years.
Sarita had cried bitterly on the podium and tried to hand her bronze to silver-medallist Park Ji-Na, to whom she had lost in the semifinals. The Indian later had to tender unconditional apologies to both the Games organising committee and AIBA for her actions.
“Boxing India will help Sarita raise money for paying the fine. We are very happy that our detailed explanations have found merit and AIBA has taken a very sympathetic and lenient view of Sarita,” Jajodia said.
Interestingly, only last month AIBA President Ching Kuo Wu had stated quite firmly that Sarita could consider her future as good as over and had promised strict punishment for emotional outburst during the Asian Games medal ceremony.
Asked how the world body was convinced to take a lenient view, Jajodia said, “What Dr Wu said was his personal view and we respect that, he is entitled to that. But we had been trying to impress upon AIBA that this was a one off incident in Incheon, that it was an emotional outburst and she has been a disciplined boxer. And we are glad that AIBA responded kindly.”
However, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has written afresh to AIBA, asking the world body to reconsider the one year ban as well.
Apart from Sandhu, another ringside coach Sagar Mai Dhayal was also let off by AIBA after he was found not guilty of any indiscipline.
India’s chef-de-mission at the Games, Adille J Sumariwalla did not find any mention in the letter from AIBA even though he was also provisionally suspended rather inexplicably.
“I am personally thankful to AIBA President, AIBA CEO Ho Kim and disciplinary committee chairman for accepting the detailed explanations given by us,” Jajodia said.
AIBA Disciplinary Committee, however, found Boxing India guilty of violating the “Principles of Responsibility Code”.
“However, due to the fact that the delegation (to the Asian Games) was appointed by the IOA ad-hoc committee prior to Boxing India being approved as a provisional member of AIBA and the professional and cooperative manner in which Boxing India has operated throughout this investigation, the disciplinary committee will refrain from taking any disciplinary action against Boxing India,” Jajodia said reading out from the AIBA letter.