Wrestler Vinesh Phogat refutes charges made by the Wrestling Federation of India
Wrestler Vinesh Phogat has refuted WFI on all their allegations apart from one – related to the wrong jersey she wore at the Tokyo Olympics.
Indian wrestler Vinesh Phogat has been handed a temporary suspension by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for not staying and training with her Indian teammates and for sporting the name of her personal sponsor on her singlet instead of the official sponsor of the Indian contingent at the Tokyo Olympics.
However, the wrestler has refuted WFI on all their allegations apart from one – related to the wrong jersey she wore at the Tokyo Olympics. In her defence, Phogat's managing partner from her legal team at Krida Legal, Vidushpat Singhania, has responded saying:
"We are only answering the three allegations levelled against her in the show-cause notice so we did not go into the details of other logistics regarding the Olympics," Singhania wrote. "The ball is now in WFI's court, we are now waiting for their response."
In an interview with The Indian Express, Singhania has responded to each of the three allegations separately to the WFI.
1: Showing negative behaviour by refusing to stay and train with the Indian contingent at Olympics village
In response, Singhania stated that Phogat was following the COVID-19 quarantine rules and guidelines laid down by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Government of Japan in the Olympic playbook for athletes. Vinesh, who was tested positive for Coronavirus in 2020, flew to Tokyo on July 28 from Hungary and chose safety and caution for herself and other wrestlers by not staying with athletes from India. Referring to the 'Test, Trace and Isolate' regulations, the response noted that each athlete from India on arrival at the Olympic Village had to undergo a 3-day mandatory quarantine period.
Instead of other wrestlers, Vinesh stayed with India's track & field contingent, who had arrived before the wrestlers and completed their quarantine, and was housed with Revathi Veeramani, Subha Venkatesan, and Sekar Dhanalakshmi.
2: Refusal to train with the Indian wrestling contingent
Vinesh's lawyer responded that the wrestler used the 'same transportation as the other wrestlers but merely used a different mat. After completion of the mandatory quarantine period for Indian wrestlers, Vinesh trained with Seema Bisla on August 3-4.
Further complication was caused after Vinesh was assigned a physiotherapist from India's shooting team. Then physio was available for her post 9.15 PM (JST). As a result, the sessions would stretch past 10 PM. She requested a change in schedule so that it doesn't impact her sleeping pattern. Vinesh shifted her training timings to merely an hour earlier than the scheduled training timings of the fellow Indian wrestlers after obtaining permission from the head coach of the Indian wrestling contingent.
3: Wearing the wrong singlet
Vinesh and her lawyer did not deny this charge and resulted from incorrect planning by the wrestler. They stated that the Indian jersey Vinesh wore to train was not washed for the day of competition due to prior circumstances, and the error was not ill-intentioned.
The wrestler has put down her unconditional apologies to WFI and IOA for not being able to wear the official jersey/singlet at her Olympic bout," the reply said.
A day after her suspension, Vinesh had revealed her physical and mental struggle during the Games where she did not have the services of her personal physio. The 26-year-old on Friday replied to the notice sent to her by the WFI. "WFI has received the reply and Vinesh has apologized," a source, aware of the developments, told PTI. "But it is very much possible that despite the apology, she may not still be allowed to travel to the World Championship," the sources added.
The WFI is not pleased with the way private sports NGOs like OGQ and JSW, who sponsor many Indian athletes, are handling the Indian wrestlers as it feels they are "spoiling" them. The WFI has said that it will not allow them to interfere in the affairs of the senior wrestlers in the future. Vinesh is supported by OGQ while Bajrang Punia gets support from JSW.