From a medal hanging around his neck to a towel wrapped around his face, Indians witnessed wrestler Sushil Kumar‘s life take a shockingly unprecedented turn.
The wrestler hailing from Delhi’s Barpola became the face of Indian wrestling following his impressive performances on the global stage. He was a superstar wrestler even before his heroic second Olympic medal in London. He already had multiple Commonwealth Championship medals in his kitty, won three Asian Championships medals and even bagged an Asian Games bronze medal in 2006. His 2008 Olympic medal was second for India in wrestling and the first since KD Jadhav’s bronze medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics. He was the flagbearer of Indian sports in the Olympics, literally.
However, on May 23, 2021, a special unit of Delhi Police arrested Sushil and his associate in a murder case of fellow international wrestler Sagar Rana. Kumar is alleged to have been part of the group that assaulted Rana and his friends at the Chhatrasal Stadium on May 4, 2021.
Sushil has earlier denied his role in the entire incident when it first came to light but his absconding for nearly three weeks and then Delhi Police’s claims of having electronic evidence against Sushil, it was a sucker punch for India’s only double-Olympic medalist.
But it wasn’t the first time that Sushil had a run-in with controversy since his triumph in London.
The episode involving Narsingh Yadav ahead of the Rio Olympics was one of the most embarrassing ones in Indian sports history. WFI had picked Narsingh Yadav to represent India in Rio but Sushil wanted a trial by virtue of his record. Narsingh, however, failed a dope test and accused Sushil Kumar’s allies at the Chhatrsasal stadium of having spiking his food.
Sushil was in news for all wrong reasons a couple of years later as well. Sushil was trying to make a comeback into the Indian squad for the Commonwealth Games. Following an ill-tempered bout, alleged Sushil’s followers assaulted his opponent Rana and his brother. Both of them were hospitalised and an FIR was registered against Sushil and his supporters.
Rana had later alleged that the bout was interrupted many times at the behest of Sushil and the officials were also threatened and finally, it was awarded to the 2010 World Champion.
He was a shadow of is his past since the 2018 CWG and he later moved onto administrative work. Even there he attracted controversy. While heading the School Games Federation of India, it was suspended by the sports ministry over violations of provisions of the National Sports Code while Sushil was the president.
According to Scroll.in, Sushil’s fall from grace is not a shocking development for wrestlers who have seen him up close. One of them on the condition of anonymity claimed that he surrounded by people willing to take advantage of his stature and only cause harm to his career and legacy. A few of them even blamed Sushil coach and father-in-law Satpal Singh for his downfall.
Interestingly, Sushil was appointed an Officer on Special Duty of the Chhatrasal Stadium after Satpal retired in 2016. Since then, several big names have left the ‘hub’ of wrestling. PTI had reported that fellow Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt and World Championship silver medallist Bajrang Punia left because of Sushil.
During this time, it is also alleged that, Sushil was focussed on his business ventures more than wrestling. According to a TOI report, Sushil had interest in Toll Plaza collection business in outer in Delhi-Haryana and Delhi-Uttar Pradesh borders apart from running Ayurveda stores of a leading Indian FMCG brand. The report further states that wrestling dropouts, who failed to make any impact in the sport would allegedly be employed to man these toll plazas.
Recent reports also suggest that sushil Kumar became a part of the jailed gangster Neeraj Bawana’s gang. According to police sources, some Bawana henchmen had also accompanied Sushil Kumar on the night of the murder
He was ‘the pehelwanji’, the one and only and now saving grace for him right is Article 20 of the Constitution of India, which says, that ‘an accused is presumed to be innocent till he is proved to be guilty’.