Boxer Sarita Devi banned for a year, India seeks review of verdict

New Delhi (IANS): Indian female boxer L. Sarita Devi was Wednesday banned for one year and fined Swiss francs 1,000 by the AIBA for refusing to accept her 2014 Asiad bronze medal, a verdict that evoked an immediate concern from the Indian government, who had supported the troubled pugilist’s plea of leniency.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) also handed down two-year bans, ending Oct 1, 2016, to the 29-year-old boxer’s husband Thoiba Singh and coach B.I. Fernandez, and barred her coach Lenin Meitei for one year ending Oct 1, 2015. Fernandez was also fined Swiss francs 2,000 and Meitei Swiss francs 1,000.

The AIBA, however, relieved Indian boxing chief coach G.S. Sandhu from all charges of misdemeanour.

“The Disciplinary Commission Chair rules that Laishram Sarita Devi is suspended from any activity at the National, Confederation and International levels for a period of one year starting from the 2014 Asian Games medal ceremony (Oct 1),” an AIBA statement said.

“Devi shall pay a fine of Swiss francs 1,000. Devi’s suspension shall end Oct 1, 2015, provided that all fines have been paid and no additional rulings have been rendered against her.”

Speculation was rife that the AIBA will impose a ban for life on the former world champion. The Indian government had, earlier, earnestly appealed for consideration of her humble background and controversy-free image to spare her a career-ending ban.

The duration of the ban provides her an opportunity to represent the country in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Expressing her views on the verdict, Sarita Devi said in a release: “I am hugely relieved and would like to thank the boxing fraternity and Boxing India for helping me sail through these difficult times.”

“I will now be able to participate in the Games and will work harder to bring laurels to the nation.”

The Indian government, however, was not amused by the decision.

Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, in a statement, said that the ban aroused a feeling of concern in the sporting community, a move that would demoralise the boxer.

“One-year ban on boxer Sarita Devi by AIBA for refusing her bronze medal in Incheon Asian Games has caused concern across India in general and sportspersons in particular. Government of India is of considered view that the issue of Sarita Devi should be dealt with in a sympathetic manner by the concerned authorities,” Sonowal said.

“Banning her for one year at this juncture will have a demoralising effect on her consistency and good performance in the arena. It may also affect the promotion and development of boxing in India.”

Sonowal said that the government will continue to pursue the matter.

“The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. of India has been pursuing the matter since the beginning, and will continue to pursue it further at all appropriate forums dealing with the subject for a review of the decision of banning Sarita Devi,” the statement said.

But Boxing India (BI) president Sandeep Jajodia was relieved following the announcement of the verdict.

Expressing his opinion on the AIBA verdict, Boxing India (BI) president Sandeep Jajodia said: “AIBA’s verdict on Sarita Devi comes as a relief to Boxing India, the boxing fraternity, Sarita’s fans and boxing enthusiasts around the world.”

In Incheon, a day after she lost the 60-kg category semi-final bout to host challenger Jina Park despite dominating the bout, an inconsolable Sarita refused to accept the bronze medal and later handed it over to Park, who left the medal on the podium before making her exit at the Seonhak Gymnasium.