In a major relief to Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, the Anti Doping Disciplinary Panel (ADDP) has revoked the provisional suspension slapped on the wrestler two months back. Punia was served a notice by National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) on April 23 following his refusal to give a sample after the selection trial for Olympics qualifier on March 10 in Sonepat.

Bajrang Punia’s provisional suspension has been revoked.(PTI)

Punia was given time until May 7 to respond. His case came up for an online hearing before ADDP on May 13 where Punia, represented by lawyer Vidushpat Singhania, defended his refusal to give a sample for testing.

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“He has submitted that considering the past experiences where the DCO has visited him for sample collection with expired kits and the fact that he was being targetted for his active participation in the agitation led by the co-wrestlers against their harassment, he was justified in refusing to give sample for dope test as he was expecting false implications,” the panel noted.

Punia argued that his refusal to give sample was “not intentional” and that the DCO/Chaperone approached Punia for his sample while his bronze medal bout was yet to take place.

“…the athlete should have been approached after his bout for bronze medal was over but the DCO/Chaperone just left without waiting for the last bout to get over,” Singhania argued.

Having lost his 65kg semi-final 9-1 in the trials to Rohit, Punia left the venue in tears and did not return for the bronze medal playoff. The loss all but ended his Paris dreams, and the endgame arrived when Sujeet Kalkal lost the Olympics qualifier as India failed to secure the quota in Punia’s division. Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) later decided not to hold any selection trials, meaning even if Kalkal would’ve won the quota, he and not Punia, would have travelled to Paris.

ADDP noted that since NADA was yet to file Notice of Charge against Punia, “the panel cannot embark upon the inquiry regarding the allegations thereby examining the issues touching upon the merits of the case and making the procedure prescribed under Article 8 of the Anti Doping Rules 2021 as redundant.”

The matter will be up for an “expeditious hearing” again if NADA decides to issue Notice of Charge to the wrestler. ADDP’s decision means Punia is free to compete in international events, Singhania said.

Punia, who is currently training at his base in Sonepat, welcomed the verdict. “We had a solid case. I am not the one to run away from dope tests. I have never said no to a test, my only condition was to first get a response on the email I had sent to NADA pertaining to expired kits. I am yet to get any response on that,” he said.

“These are all tactics to harass and intimidate us because we were involved in the wrestlers’ protest. I am paying the price for standing my ground,” the four-time World Championships bronze medallist added.

Last month, United World Wrestling (UWW) also suspended Punia following NADA’a action and the 30-year-old believed the world body too will remove its sanction soon. “UWW’s action was because of NADA’s suspension. Now that NADA’s suspension doesn’t stand, UWW’s verdict will be reversed too,” he said.

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