Yes, there may have been a bountiful of inspirational stories you were regaled with at one time, but among them remain irrevocable tarnishes on the legacies of every sport. Because controversy is no stranger to sports and no possible point of contention goes unnoticed. Alongside the significant breakthrough achievements of our athletes in the history of sports exists scandals that dominate headlines for months, years, and decades. A decade cannot go by in sports without controversies, impropriety, and disappointment. In that vein, The Bridge thought it would be amusing to look at the ten biggest controversies of the decade in the Indian sporting fraternity.
#1 Dutee's hyperandrogenism conundrum
Star Indian sprinter Dutee Chand’s path to glory had many pit stops. She overcame a roadblock of scandals but stayed strong to script her own narrative. Before she made a name for herself, she fought a long battle for her right to race after undergoing the pain of humiliating gender tests. The career of the double silver medallist at the Jakarta Asian Games 2018 took a major blow in 2014, when she was dropped from the Commonwealth Games for high levels of testosterone in her body that exceeded the guidelines laid down for female athletes.
The incident was akin to the similar accusation levelled against South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya. While she was one step away from bidding goodbye to her athletics career, a determined Dutee decided to take on the IAAF’s hyperandrogenism clause in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
#2 Sarita, the rebel with a cause
In recent years, Indian boxing has witnessed a multitude of scandalous events. The decade has its own share of controversies from the dispute over Boxing India’s recognition by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to another setback in the form of suspension of Sarita Devi after her refusal to accept the bronze medal at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon in 2014 that shook the entire nation.
While being certain that the victory belonged to her, Sarita was taken by surprise when South Korea’s Park Jina was declared the winner. She lodged a protest, bursting into tears as she refused to allow the officials to put the bronze medal around her neck. Later, she left the podium to hand over the medal to her Korean opponent. As Park pleaded to take her medal back, she left it on the podium and walked away.
#3 Bumpy ride for I-League and ISL
The ugly spat between I-League and ISL made a mockery of Indian football while also damaging the growth of the clubs and franchises that have a stake in the national football structure. With enough reasons for the country’s inability to punch its weight on the global circuit, perhaps one of the principal faults is inefficiently handling the organisation of domestic football in India. The reason? The All India Football Federation (AIFF) committee had recommended that ISL be recognised as the country’s top tier at the expense of India’s top rung of football, the I-League.
#4 Love's labour's lost
Perhaps, nothing is as infuriating for fans as when situations so unusual occur that none is sure how they will be resolved. And thus controversy ensues. While scandals in sports can be really huge, a few can be magnified ten times more considering the athlete’s position in society. Former Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh is no stranger to this scrutiny. His relationship with British-Indian hockey player Ashpal Bhogal went downhill in 2015 after the latter accused Singh of blackmailing her into considering an abortion against her wishes. To which, Singh flatly denied the allegations made against him, those of sexual harassment, besides refusing to agree that they were engaged in the first place.
#5 'Kaho na war hain'!
There are only a few rivalries to match that of Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav face-off. Right before the 2016 Rio Olympics, the battle between the two took the centre stage. There emerged an endless debate over who should represent India in the 74kg weight category at the Olympics. With both Sushil and Narsingh aiming for the lone spot, it was announced that Narsingh would represent India at the Games. At this juncture, Sushil staked claim to the spot owing to his stupendous Olympic record and instead demanded a trial.
The matter, however, did not end here. Sushil moved to the Delhi High Court to ensure that a trial is held. The issue was still not resolved, and it became too obvious that the Wrestling federation was not very keen on the trial. The incident did not go down well with Sushil, and the Olympian soon took to social media, appealing his fans to demand a trial. Narsingh courted controversy after being tested positive for a banned drug only three weeks before the Olympics. He went on to claim that his food at the national camp had been spiked, without naming anyone in general. Anyhow, the Narsingh-Sushil saga goes down as one of the most controversial events that rocked the sport in India.
#6 Pulwama attack first, visa attack second
India-Pakistan clashes morph from a mere sporting affair to a much bitter encounter of conflicting nationalism and cultural chauvinism on and off the field. Earlier this year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) debarred Indian Olympic Association (IOA) from holding sporting events after India refused entry to two Pakistani shooters at the World Cup following the dastardly Pulwama terror attack.
While few argued that visas to the team had been cleared, the Pakistan shooting federation maintained a rigid stance, saying that the athletes were never granted visas. The IOC thus exhibited an uncompromising posture, stating that action can be avoided provided that the government submits written assurances on following the regulations of the Olympic charter. The rule suggests that no athlete can be denied visa by any host nation based on political ramifications.
Well, perhaps fighting with no bullets triggered does not make this rivalry anything less, because this too can tear through us. Remember, P.R. Sreejesh made ‘my blood boils when I play against Pakistan’ not very long ago.
#7 Dealing With Non-Exclusion 'Attyachar'
The conflict regarding the non-selection of Indian women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj in the semi-final against England grew by leaps and bounds, revealing deep fissures between the captain and coach Ramesh Powar. While a tearful Mithali accused Powar of sheer discrimination, the latter had reportedly told the media that she threatened to retire midway when denied the opening slot and that the decision had been made solely in the best interest of the team.
India may have had a good run at the Women’s World T20 last year as they finished as semi-finalists of the tournament, but all of what they achieved had been overshadowed by events that came behind.
#8 CWG Scam Or Shame?
The 2010 Commonwealth Games scam stole the limelight for the wrong reasons. The event that should have highlighted India as an emerging global power instead threatened to turn into a national embarrassment. There were a series of allegations over a large sum of money being transferred to a UK based firm from the Organising Committee of the Games. It was estimated that only half of the allotted Rs 70,000 crore had been spent on Indian athletes. As a consequence, all the accused, including Suresh Kalmadi, the Chairman of the Organising Committee, were arrested.
#9 Did You Spot The Indian Flag? Err.
As many as three Indian athletes competed under the Olympic flag at the 2014 Winter Games following the suspension of the national Olympic Association by the IOC. The athletes, as a result, fumed at the Association for its sluggish response to a December 2012 scandal that kept India’s membership in the International Olympic Committee in the lurch.
While the international body gave India until February 7 to elect a new leader, the Indian Association scheduled the voting on February 9, almost two days after the ceremony. Hence, Indian athletes paraded as independents into the stadium under a neutral Olympic white flag. Despite the sting of embarrassment for the athletics fraternity, the controversy did not stir up that big an outrage among the countrymen.
#10 If Only You Were A Woman, Hardik!
In January 2019, an episode of famed Indian talk show Koffee with Karan aired on television involving Indian cricketers Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul drew a lot of flak for their insensitive, misogynistic comments through the duration of the show. With the BCCI clamping down on the cricketers, they had been sent back from India’s overseas tour ongoing in Australia- the first instance of players being sent back in Indian cricket in 82 years. Hardik also took to Twitter to tender an apology. It was Hardik who boasted about his hook-ups with multiple women and how open he is with his parents about it. A series of setbacks followed. Gillette terminated its contract with Hardik. He was also replaced in the squad for the ongoing ODI series in Australia.
Naturally, there are controversies abound in the history of Indian sports. Aren’t there just as many head-scratching, scandalous, split-second moments in our sporting history that we will never be able to escape? Tell us.