If newspaper reports are to be believed, Olympic bronze medalist, Vijender Singh Beniwal (27) was removed from the squad of boxers listed for a training camp in Cyprus later this month and two tournament to be held in Cuba in June – the Giraldo Cardova Cardin memorial boxing tournament and the Roberto Balado Cup.
However, according to the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF), the omission from the squad is a fallout of Vijender’s inability to make it to training sessions or trials for the events, rather than a disciplinary measure imposed by the IABF. “We have not stopped Vijender from attending the national camp. He has been in constant touch with us and it was his decision. If he’s not in practice and missing training programmes because of this controversy, it will definitely impact his performance so he’d like to take time to come clean,” says Rajesh Bhandari, General Secretary, IABF.
National boxing coach GS Sandhu confirmed that Vijender had not reported for the camp but refrained from commenting on the details of when he had last attended his training sessions at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala. Colonel (retired) AS Dagar, Executive Director of the IABF, said that “there is no embargo or ban on Vijender at all. Why he doesn’t want to come for training or did not appear for the selection trials, only he can comment on but he was never dropped.” The list of players who did make the cut for the Cuba-Cyprus events are likely to be released soon, added Bhandari.
Vijender’s prolonged absence may affect his participation in the biggest boxing event of the year – the 2013 World Boxing Championships organised by the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) to be held from October 11-27 at Almaty, Kazakhstan. “Vijender’s inability to train and practice is a loss not only to him but also to the country and the federation too. We’d like him to be clear of all charges soon so that he can resume practice and compete,” says Bhandari.
In fact, it appears that Percept — the talent management company that signed Vijender in 2009 for brand endorsements, a year after his Beijing Olympic bronze medal in 2008, is also waiting for the Punjab police investigations to make some headway. The company is yet to renew Vijender’s contract, which expired last month.
The Punjab Police has alleged that Vijender had consumed heroin at least 12 times between December 2012 and February 2013, following which the boxer submitted his blood and urine samples last week to the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
Amidst much speculation about the results of NADA’s testing coming out this week, it has also been said that the blood and urine tests may not nail the boxer for consuming heroin. This is because the drug does not last for more than 12 hours in the blood stream and three days in urine, but the boxer has refused to give hair samples in which traces of heroin can be found from up to three months ago. When asked for clarification, Mukul Chatterjee, Director General, NADA, said that “this is not a cut-and-dry case. The technicalities of the testing process and the result interpretation are confidential, so NADA would rather not comment on that. There might be a clarification in the near future, an opportunity to clear the air but give NADA some time to look into it.”
Investigations into Vijender’s alleged heroin abuse began on 3 March after his wife’s car was found parked outside drug dealer Anoop Singh Kahlon’s house during a police raid. The Fatehgarh Sahib district police seized over 26 kg of drugs, including heroin, worth Rs 130 crore in that raid. Vijendra and his sparring partner Ram Singh have since been questioned several times by the police. Ram Singh was formally arrested last week.