Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 17
Laishram Sarita Devi was handed a one-year ban by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) on Wednesday for refusing to accept her bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games. The punishment, however, is unlikely to hinder her chances of competing in the 2016 Rio Games as the women’s Olympic qualifiers will start at the end of next year.
Sarita has been barred from taking part in national and international events from October 1, 2014 to October, 2015, besides being fined 1000 Swiss francs (around Rs 66,000). She will be eligible to return to action by November 2015, in time for the women’s Olympic qualifiers for the Rio Games.
India’s foreign coach BI Fernandez has been banned for two years and fined 2000 Swiss Francs (around Rs. 1.32 lakh) for standing by Sarita during her protest after losing the controversial semifinal against South Korean Ji-Na Park. Chief national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu and women’s national coach Sagar Mal Dhayal have been cleared. The two coaches, along with Fernandez, had been provisionally suspended for not doing enough to restrain Sarita, but AIBA’s disciplinary committee did not find them guilty of the charge. AIBA’s ruling was announced by the Boxing India (BI) at a press conference here.
Sarita, who has been nursing a wrist injury and is out of action till February, said she was happy that her Olympic dreams were still alive. There were apprehensions that Sarita would be banned for life for her protest and the ruling by AIBA has come as a huge relief to the boxer.
“I am happy that my dreams of competing in the Rio Olympics are still alive, but, at the same time, a little disappointed because AIBA has imposed a ban of one year. I will make a strong comeback once the ban period is over,” Sarita told The Tribune from Imphal.
“My ban will get over in October next year, which means I would be able to compete in the 2016 Women’s World Championship, which is also the Olympic qualifiers,” said Sarita, who received her medal from the IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta last week.
The Sports Ministry, however, has written to AIBA to revoke the ban on Sarita.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who along with Sachin Tendulkar, had shown strong support for Sarita, said he would continue to request AIBA to take a lenient view of Sarita. “From our side, we have been pursuing the matter with the international forum. I have written to the AIBA president to revoke the suspension order,” Sonowal told reporters outside the Parliament House.
Later, in a statement, the Minister said, “Banning Sarita for one year at this juncture will have a demoralising effect on her consistency and good performance in the arena. The Sports Ministry will continue to pursue the matter further at all appropriate forums dealing with the subject for a review of the decision of banning Sarita Devi.”
AIBA has also banned Sarita’s personal coach, Lenin Meitei, for a year, while suspending her husband Thoiba Singh from ringside for two years.
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