Can controversy ever be far behind when it comes to Indian sports? In 2022, a year which was marked a historic Commonwealth Games campaign and several rare feats in several World Championships, there were also rampant administrative issues, on-field controversies and some downright strange incidents.
Here’s a rewind of the year’s 22 most notable controversies:
Cycling coach fired for harassment
The national cycling team was called back from a training camp in Slovenia after a female cyclist levelled charges of sexual harassment against the chief national coach. The coach was dismissed after SAI found him guilty.
Gymnast files charges against coach
Gymnast Aruna Budda Reddy also complained against her coach. She said that coach Rohit Jaiswal had videographed her without her consent during trials held in March. The coach was removed from India’s CWG contingent at the last moment.
Birendra Lakra caught up in murder case
Birendra Lakra was in the news last year as being part of the Indian hockey team which broke India’s medal drought at the Olympics. This year, he was in the news for his alleged involvement in the murder of his childhood friend. Investigation in the case is ongoing.
Lakshya Sen caught up in age fraud case
Though hardly as serious as murder, the country’s top shuttler Lakshya Sen became embroiled in an age fraud case. An FIR was lodged against the shuttler. Currently, the Karnataka HC has passed an interim order staying criminal proceedings against him.
Doping bans in Athletics
At least three high-profile athletes were found guilty of doping. Discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur was given a four-year ban. Emerging track star Dhanalakshmi Sekar’s career was also stopped in its tracks for the same reason. Javelin thrower Shivpal Singh was another big name suspended, as was triple jumper Aishwarya Babu.
Dhanalakshmi (second from left)
Doping (whereabouts) ban on Dipa Karmakar
While there was relative clarity on the bans imposed on the athletes, there was a strange episode involving India’s pathbreaker in gymnastics, Dipa Karmakar.
While most authorities – the world gymnastics body, the Indian federation and the athlete herself – have not provided any clarity, the Tripura athlete is currently serving a two-year ban for failing to inform the authorities about her location at all times. The last time Karmakar competed in an international meet was three years ago. The relevance of this ban, therefore, is highly ambiguous.
While there was considerable ambiguity in Karmakar’s case, there was nothing ambiguous about the lifetime ban slapped on wrestler Satender Mallik by the Wrestling Federation of India. Participating in the trials for the Commonwealth Games, the heavyweight wrestler lost his cool after a decision went against him and slapped the referee.
Covid bubble breached in AFC Cup
One of the most anticipated events being held in India was the Women’s AFC Asian Cup. However, the tournament came to a screeching halt for the Indian team. They were ousted after just one match, following a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad. Little did we know then that this, however disappointing, was hardly going to be the last football controversy of the year.
Lovlina Borgohain, Bajrang Punia complain about lack of staff
The CWG campaign turned out to be a historic one, but it started off with a few wrong notes. Boxer Lovlina Borgohain alleged “mental harassment” after her coach Sandhya Gurung was given a different accreditation and not allowed inside the Games village. Wrestler Bajrang Punia too, while not in as strong words, said that he was not being allowed a physio.
Rude behaviour by official in Games Village
A manager attached with the Indian weightlifting team was called out for his ‘rude behaviour’ by the CWG organising committee, which asked the chef-de-mission’s office to instruct the country’s contingent “to be respectful and courteous at all times to our workforce” at the CWG. It was reported that the official in question had behaved rudely with a driver of a vehicle which was delegated to transport the Indian contingent.
India protests against hockey timer
Nothing brought the whole of India together at the CWG quite like complaints over the penalty shootout defeat which knocked the women’s hockey team out.
The Australian women’s hockey team was asked to retake a penalty shoot-out in the semifinal because the officials claimed that the timer was not working. The FIH was forced to issue an apology after India lost the shootout 0-3. “Such biasedness used to happen in cricket as well earlier till we became a superpower, Hockey mein bhi hum jald banenge,” said Virender Sehwag.
Sreeshankar misses out on gold by inches
Murali Sreeshankar won a historic silver in long jump at the CWG, but he missed the gold medal by inches. Or, as some thought, by an optical illusion. One of Sreeshankar’s jumps which was called as foul looked on replays as if it had been a legal jump.
Tejaswin vs AFI
High jumper Tejaswin Shankar was also involved in a controversy at the CWG, though there was nothing to be faulted with his on-field performance. Just before the event though, Tejaswin was forced to take the Athletics Federation of India to court after he was left out of the squad despite achieving the qualification standard. The court slammed AFI over its selection policy and Tejaswin was later named in the squad. He went on to win bronze.
Table Tennis also saw a selection controversy. Several TT players complained to the court alleged discrepancies in the selection process of the 2022 Commonwealth Games team. While most of them were turned down, one emerging player – Diya Chitale – was included in the team after the appeal.
Coach’s conspicuous absence at CWG
The actual TT campaign was also eventful, especially for the women’s team. The women’s coach Anindita Chakraborty was conspicuous by her absence while men’s coach S Raman seemed to fill in for her. While it was unclear who had a problem with whom within the team, the women’s team suffered an upset in the quarterfinals. “The atmosphere in the team is the not best, let’s just say that,” PTI quoted a source from within the TT team.
TTFI EC suspended
The problems within TT were mirrored by the administrative problems within the sport. The Delhi High Court suspended TTFI’s executive committee and appointed a CoA to take charge.
Hockey federation placed under CoA
India’s hockey federation too was placed under a CoA by the Delhi High Court after being found in violation of the national sports code. Narinder Batra was also removed as the Indian Olympics Association (IOA) president as a consequence and as well as FIH president.
The FIH, compounding India’s worries, shot a letter to HI demanding that elections be held immediately, failing which the 2023 World Cup hosting rights would be taken away.
AIFF President removed
If hockey was facing some administrative trouble, football was having an even tougher time. The SC removed Praful Patel as president of the AIFF. His term had already ended in 2020.
In the middle of all this administrative rigmarole, FIFA suspended the AIFF. A CoA was quickly formed to take charge of the AIFF, which too was disbanded in the matter of a few days. Fresh elections were held soon after, and former footballer Kalyan Chaubey took over as AIFF president. The suspension was later revoked.
U17 women’s team coach suspended for alleged sexual abuse
Alex Ambrose, assistant coach of the Indian women’s U-17 football team, was suspended and sent back from a training camp in Norway after he was found to have allegedly abused a minor player.
While individual sports federations had a bad year in 2022, the IOA itself had a lot of churn. The Delhi HC handed over the functioning of the IOA to a CoA, which order the SC stayed.
Adile Sumariwala, president of the AFI and vice president of the IOA, claimed he had been appointed as the IOA head. General secretary Rajeev Mehta came out contesting this claim. Finally, it was PT Usha who was elected as the president.
Deepti’s run out causes uproar in England
Deepti Sharma caused an uproar in the international cricket community as she ran out the non-striker to give India a 3-0 series victory against England. While the on-field players seemed not to make much of this, the outside world dissected the incident from all quarters, and the biggest talking point in the world of cricket for the next few days remained whether it was a moral act to run out the non-striker.