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23 controversies that rocked Indian sports in 2023

From protests against the former WFI president to big names getting banned, 2023 was another year with multiple controversies in Indian Sports.

23 controversies that rocked Indian sports in 2023

Indian sports saw multiple controversies in 2023 but Wrestlers protest against ex-WFI president remained the biggest newsmaker.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 Jan 2024 10:53 AM GMT

Indian sports and controversies are a match made in heaven. It is such a match that can put the Bollywood romantic scripts to shame.

In the year 2023, a year which was marked by a historic Asian Games campaign and several rare feats in several World Championships, it was the controversies that kept on flowing throughout the year making it an interesting year.

Here's a rewind of the year's 23 most notable controversies:

Notable wrestlers' protest against the WFI president in January

In an unprecedented development, 2023 started with the biggest names of Indian wrestling sitting in a protest against former Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

Bajrang Punia, Sakshi Malik, and Vinesh Phogat accused Brij Bhushan of sexual harassment and dictatorial behaviour during the protest. The protest was dissolved when the sports ministry set up an oversight committee to look into the matter.

Wrestlers stage protest against Brij Bhushan Singh for sixty days

Feeling dissatisfied with the outcome of the oversight committee, the wrestlers went all-out against Brij Bhushan Singh and resumed their protest at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, for more than sixty days in April-May 2023.

Demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan, the wrestlers moved the Supreme Court to get the Delhi Police to register FIRs based on the complaints filed by six women wrestlers and start the proceedings.

The protest went on for two months with multiple accusations from both sides flying every day. The sit-in protest ended when the wrestlers were detained and dragged by the Delhi Police as they tried to march towards the new parliament building to stage a protest. The sports ministry handed over the WFI to IOA appointed ad-hoc committee.

The elections were held on December 21, but the operations of WFI has been handed over again to an ad-hoc committee after the wrestlers cried foul over Brij Bhushan loyalist Sanjay Singh's election as the federation president.

The WFI is currently serving a ban imposed by UWW.

Dutee Chand caught in Doping

One of the most celebrated names of Indian athletics in recent times, Sprinter Dutee Chand was caught in a doping controversy.

Dutee Chand was banned for four years for failing two out-of-competition dope tests for selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) in December 2022.

Harmanpreet Kaur banned before the Asian Games

Indian women's cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur was slapped with a two-match ban after her outburst of anger against umpires during a match against Bangladesh.

Harmanpreet became the first woman cricketer to be found guilty of a Level 2 breach of the ICC code of conduct after breaking stumps and behaving rudely with the on field umpires.

Selection Controversy in boxing

After the Boxing Federation of India announced the new selection policy under the Higher Performance Director Bernard Dunne, three women boxers reached out to the High Court for non-selection in the World Championships.

Later the Olympian Amit Panghal also dragged BFI into the court during the Asian Games. However, the Court sided with the federation after getting satisfactory proof during the subsequent hearings.

EFI vs Chirag Khandal

Chirag Khandal, the youngest equestrian in the continent to have qualified for the upcoming 19th Asian Games, announced a shock retirement from the sport at the age of 19 just before the continental showpiece.

The reason behind his shock retirement was hostile behaviour from the Equestrian Federation of India. Chirag said he is returning to his hometown (Jaipur) after his family's saving was exhausted in fighting for justice against the federation.

Another Equestrian player Gaurav Pundir also dragged EFI to court and appealed to everyone to save his career.

United World Wrestling bans the Wrestling Federation of India

The apex world wrestling body, United World Wrestling, suspended the Wrestling Federation of India on grounds of bad governance.

The main reason for holding elections in the stipulated period and the Indian wrestlers had to play under the UWW flag in all the tournaments, except the Asian Games.

Ivan Vukomanovic walks out against Bengaluru FC, KBFC slapped with fine

The Disciplinary Committee of the All India Football Federation imposed a fine of Rs Four crores on Kerala Blasters FC for walking off the pitch.

Earlier, KBFC coach Ivan walked out against Bengaluru FC after disagreeing with a free-kick decision from Referee Crystal John and his team followed him forfeiting the match.

AIFF General Secretary Shaji Prabhakaran terminated

All India Football Federation Secretary General Shaji Prabhakaran has been removed from his position, leading to a major controversy and allegations of conspiracy.

The reason given by the AIFF Executive Committee for the sacking was a "breach of trust" by Shaji.

Later, the Delhi High Court temporarily halted the AIFF's decision to terminate Shaji Prabhakaran as secretary general stretching the matter further.

Fencer Bhavani Devi alleges foul play in the Asian Games

Bhavani Devi said she was robbed of history at the Asian Games by biased refereeing towards the home fencer after her controversial defeat in the quarterfinals.

Looking forward to the disappointment of the Asian Games, Bhavani said that her focus now shifts to qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

Neeraj Chopra victim for poor officiating at Asian Games

Athletics at the Asian Games 2022 was a controversial affair and one of the biggest athletes in the World was on the other side of the poor officiating by the officials.

World Champion Neeraj Chopra saw his first throw not being recorded after some malfunction with the device. A throw which was adjudged to be more than 85m went unrecorded.

However, Neeraj emerged victorious from the early setback and defended his Asian Games title with a gold medal.

Jyothi Yarraji overcomes poor officiating at Asian Games

Star hurdler Jyothi Yarraji also endured unfair officiating at the Asian Games as she was disqualified from her 100m hurdles race for a false start.

After the protest was lodged, the Indian athlete was allowed to run and she clinched the silver medal in the event.

Rani Rampal vs Janneke Schopman

Former Indian hockey skipper Rani Rampal lashed out at women's hockey team head coach Janneke Schopman for ignoring her for two years.

As she was announced as the U17 women's national team coach, Rani seemed to point fingers at Janneke Schopmann for freezing her out of the senior national team without explanation.

China rejects Asian Games visa for Wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh

The host country of the 2022 Asian Games, China refused to give visas to Indian Wushu players hailing from Arunachal Pradesh. The trio of Nyeman Wangsu, Onilu Tega, and Mepung Lamgu were given stapled visas by China.

Stapled visas mean China does not recognize India's sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh.

Two Taekwondo federations fight for power amid dark future of players

Indian taekwondo players suffered in the power struggle between two federations: India Taekwondo and Taekwondo Federation of India.

One of the federations is recognized by the world bodies while one is affiliated with IOA leading to the players being caught in the crossfire. Indian players reached China hours before their bout and lost comprehensively.

Swapna Barman accuses Nandini Agasara of being transgender

Swapna Barman made an explosive allegation saying that heptathlon medallist Nandini Agasara, who pipped her to a heptathlon medal at the Asian Games on Sunday night, should be ineligible from competing because she is a transgender woman.

2018 gold medalist Swapna Barman later apologized for her comments but the allegation remained the biggest controversy from the continental showpiece.

Sprinters run away from venue after finding NADA officials at Delhi Athletics meet

In one of the funniest incidents of the year, all 100m sprinters ran away when they heard of NADA officials at the Delhi Athletics Meet. Only one sprinter ran the bizarre final.

Later, the sprinter Lalith was also suspended for doping making a complete mockery of the system.

Drama in Asian Games Kabaddi final between India and Iran

High octane final in men's Kabaddi between India and Iran turned out to be highly controversial and it was delayed by more than one hour after an issue with the referring.

A decision ruled in favour of Iran became the bone of contention, and the match was suspended indefinitely due to the controversy and resumed only an hour later.

India reclaimed the gold after 2018 and took revenge against Iran.

Sumit Nagal refuses to play in the Davis Cup, AITA retaliates

Sumit Nagal, India's highest-ranked singles player at number 141 in the ATP chart, cited discomfort with the grass court surface as his reason for not participating in the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan.

In retaliation, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) quashed Sumit Nagal's wildcard entry into next year's season-opening Grand Slam - Australian Open.

Hima Das caught in Doping

Another high-profile name in Indian athletics and star sprinter Hima Das has been provisionally suspended by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for three whereabouts failures in 12 months.

Former Indian hockey captain Sandeep Singh resigns from ministerial position

Former Indian men's hockey captain Sandeep Singh has stepped down as the Sports Minister of Haryana following a sexual harassment case.

Singh was booked by Chandigarh Police for allegedly sexually harassing, stalking, illegally confining, and criminally intimidating a junior national athletics coach in Haryana.

Palak Kohli drags fellow shuttler for disability fudging

Paralympian shuttler Palak Kohli dragged her fellow shuttler and Asian Games medalist Vaishnavi Adkar to the Delhi High Court for faking disability with the help of fake MRI reports.

The allegations by Palak turned out to be true with BWF canceling the eligibility of Vaishnavi for the future.

ISL officiating issues enrage the fans

Indian football has been plagued with poor refereeing and the fans were left fuming with poor standards of decision-making across the matches.

Chennaiyin FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Mumbai City FC, and others were left enraged after suffering in multiple matches.

Bonus controversy: Sakshi Malik announces retirement, Vinesh and Bajrang return awards

The controversy that opened 2023 for Indian sports was the last controversy of the year with Sakshi Malik announcing her retirement and Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat returning their awards in protest of Brij Bhushan Singh loyalist Sanjay Singh becoming the new WFI President.

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