Decorated wrestler Satish Kumar has been awarded Rs 25 lakh as compensation by a Delhi court for being wrongly restrained from taking part in the 2002 14th Asian Games in South Korea under the mistaken impression that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. While directing the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to pay the compensation, the court made a scathing remark saying the way sportspersons are treated by the federations led by non-sporting bosses “speaks volumes” on why India is still struggling for medals in global competitions. Kumar, employed with the CISF, had brought laurels for the country including winning gold medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the World Police Games in Los Angeles. Besides holding the WFI culpable, Additional District Judge Surinder S Rathi also directed the Centre to conduct a probe against all officials involved including those from the WFI for nearly spoiling Kumar’s career.
The court directed the government to ensure that such incidents are never repeated and no other sportsperson goes through the humiliation which he has undergone. Kumar, a Punjab native, was selected by WFI for the 14th Asian Games at Busan in South Korea, but was wrongly stopped from boarding the flight with other athletes as he was confused with another wrestler of same name who hailed from West Bengal. The West Bengal wrestler was then banned for two years after testing positive in the dope test. The court said the sports body had “defamed and caused immense trauma and humiliation” to him by not only “mindlessly deboarding” him for no fault of his but also stuck to their “absurd and wrong stand that it was he who was tested positive”. The court, in its 30-page judgement, said, “… the work culture at WFI is found to be grossly wanting in taking care of the careers of budding wrestlers who toil hard for the nation and take pride in wearing the Indian flag. “Sportspersons of the calibre of Kumar are already rare in India and the way they are treated by federations led by non-sporting bosses speaks volumes on why India is still struggling for medals in Olympics and Asiads.”
It said “it is clear that WFI messed up the whole issue and concluded that the letter issued by Manmohan Singh for Indian Olympic Association (IOA) pertains to Satish Kumar of Punjab, even though it was for Satish Kumar of West Bengal”. All this showed that the WFI officials were “sleeping with open eyes” as to whether the positive dope test pertained to Satish Kumar of West Bengal or Satish Kumar of Punjab, the court said. “They (WFI) should have exercised due diligence and care because other than the initial name ‘Satish Kumar’, there is nothing common between the two wrestlers. The plaintiff (Kumar) is 97 kg category, whereas the other Satish Kumar was 57 kg category wrestler,” the court said. According to the complaint, on August 25, 2000, Kumar was selected by WFI to be part of the Indian contingent for the Asian Games during September-October 2002. In September 2002, he, along with other wrestlers, was subjected to dope test under the supervision of the Sports Authority of India and since his sample did not test positive, nothing adverse was informed to him.
However, on September 26, 2000 when he visited Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for going to the airport, he was told that he could not go to Busan on account of positive report in dope test. He was deboarded, while the rest of the team members left for Busan that evening itself. However, upon inquiry, Kumar found that he was wrongly stopped from going to Busan and it was a case of mistaken identity. The petition had sought Rs 30 lakh in damages, alleging that the “false implication did not only hurt his feelings but also feelings of his family and relatives and it lowered his moral and esteem in the eyes of acquaintances and well wishers”.