Sarita Devi’s Backing By IOA: A Little Too Late

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Laishram Sarita Devi is staring at the face of a lifetime ban. Although it isn’t official, it seems inevitable following the comments from CK Wu, President International Boxing Association (amateur) (AIBA). “She will be heavily punished, there will be zero tolerance“, said Wu.

Regrettably, Sarita Devi will have to face some severe consequences of her series of reactions post her semi-final bout in the Asian Games. It is unfortunate that the former world champion will have to put her gloves down for an emotional outburst.

“If you accept being the winner, you have to accept being the loser. If everyone behaved like that, what type of competition will we have?” The argument of CK Wu is rational, but the extent of (expected) punishment is a little too harsh. Her 14-year, disciplined career and an official apology should have been enough to justify her conduct after her controversial semi-final match, but it is not the case.

Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) backing of Sarita Devi is one positive that can be drawn from this unfortunate turn of events. Sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal, IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta, and Boxing India (BI) president Sandeep Jajodia among others have come out in full support of Sarita Devi and extended “legal and psychological” support to the pugilist. “We will hire a lawyer and try to get the ban overturned”, Rajeev Mehta told The Indian Express.

Despite the welcome involvement of the authorities, it appears to be a little too late now. Had the IOA officials been around Sarita Devi at the time of her reaction to the match verdict, they could have prevented the way things unfolded. There was no official present at the time Sarita Devi lodged a complaint after her match, as claimed by her.

The situation could have been handled in a professional manner. As a matter of fact, Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS), an ad-hoc dispute settling division, had a committee present at the Asian Games for the first time. Sarita Devi could very well have been directed to approach the division, had there been someone guiding her. Going to the CAS, once the AIBA’s word on the lightweight boxer is out, won’t necessarily reap results. AIBA’s and IOA’s tumultuous relation is also well known.

Hopefully, the surge of support by the officials for Sarita Devi is not too late and these statements aren’t just customary and reap some positive results for Sarita Devi.

Vikas Arora

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