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Sarita faces AIBA suspension after returning medal

L. Sarita Devi acknowledges the crowd after giving her bronze medal to South Korea's Park Ji-na, left, during the medal ceremony for the women’s light 60-kilogram division boxing at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon on Wednesday.  

A huge controversy broke out on Wednesday at the Asian Games when India’s woman boxer Sarita Devi returned her bronze medal, protesting against her controversial loss to a South Korean, inviting a possible suspension for defiance.

Sarita, who was declared a loser despite dominating the 60kg semifinal bout against home favourite Jina Park, was today inconsolable on the podium and was crying bitterly as she stunned the officials and spectators by refusing to accept the bronze medal, which is now in the custody of organisers.

The boxer was in disbelief yesterday when she lost to Park, who ended up as the silver-medallist. Sarita was clearly the better of the two pugilists but the judges thought otherwise.

Left in the lurch by the accompanying IOA officials, she managed to collect $500, including with the help of a journalist and Mary Kom’s husband, to lodge an appeal against the verdict but lost.

The former Asian and world champion then left the ceremony. Park, visibly rattled by the turn of events, left the medal on the podium and made her exit.

A sobbing Sarita later told reporters that she had to do what she did at the medal ceremony to continue with her boxing career or else it would have stayed in her mind.

“It’s not that I did not want to accept the medal. I accepted it and then gave it back to the Koreans. I had to do this to continue with my boxing career or the memory of this incident would have stayed on in my mind. I would now go back and hug my infant child,” she said.

She was ready to accept the consequences of her actions but also accused the Indian officialdom of being uncaring in the whole episode.

“I am prepared for any consequences. Not one Indian official came to us and consoled or even spoke to us.”

Hours after her apparent defiance, the AIBA termed her act as regrettable and initiated a disciplinary action process

“AIBA has already proceeded its Disciplinary Action Process to review this case, and the decision will be made immediately after the Asian Games,” AIBA said in a statement.

AIBA in its statement said that its supervisor and Technical Delegate David B Francis has submitted a report to the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) concerning the case.

“The whole incident looked like a well planned scenario by her and her team, and it is regretful to watch a boxer refuse the medal regardless of what happened in the competition,” Francis wrote.

“In this regard, as the Technical Delegate, I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement,” added Francis.

The report further added that while protesting, the Indian did not follow the AIBA Technical Rules and protested against the judges’ decisions, though the Rules only allow a protest against the Referee’s Decision.

Meanwhile back home, three Union ministers came out in support of Sarita as sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal sought a report from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on the issue.

“We have sought a report from IOA on Sarita’s case. Let them give a detailed report and we will take further steps,” Sonowal told reporters in New Delhi.

However one of the prominent politicians of north-east and MoS (Home) Kiran Rijiju didn’t mince words when he said that “Indian officials should have been more pro-active in lodging a protest to the Asian Games Organizing Committee, which might have made a difference.”

"We are all sad as we all know that she won the bout,” Rijiju said.

Former Army chief and MoS (North East Region Affairs) V K Singh said that boxing’s scoring and point system has been mired in controversy for a long time now.

“We have seen the refereeing and judging in boxing has always been questioned. We have seen that Cuban boxers have protested in the Olympics. Our delegation there should have complained at the right time,” said Singh.

However chef—de—mission Adile Sumariwala didn’t support Sarita’s behaviour as he felt that “AIBA won’t take her behaviour very kindly”.


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 9:27:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/incheon-asian-games-2014-sarita-faces-aiba-probe-for-returning-medal/article6466145.ece

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