Bajrang Punia and His Fall From Grace

Bajrang Punia (Image:

The fall from grace of Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Bajrang Punia has taken a new turn as the grappler has been suspended by United World Wrestling (UWW). This comes as a direct result of the provisional suspension imposed on him by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) for his refusal to provide a urine sample after performing poorly in the trials on March 10 in Patiala.

An update on the UWW’s internal dashboard on its website states that Bajrang Punia is suspended until December 31, 2024, due to NADA’s provisional suspension for an alleged Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV). After NADA placed Bajrang under provisional suspension last week, he asserted his innocence.

Bajrang took to social media to state that he had never refused to provide a dope sample, a sentiment echoed by his lawyer, Vidushpat Singhania. Additionally, Bajrang mentioned that since NADA had not addressed his previous allegation that it used ‘expired kits’ to collect dope samples, he wanted an explanation before submitting a sample.

It is learned that Vidushpat Singhania has filed a reply to NADA and may push for an early hearing.

However, this is only one side of the story. It is currently unclear whether a National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will hear the case. In 2016, wrestler Narsingh Yadav tested positive for a banned steroid in an out-of-competition test at the SAI Centre in Sonepat, Haryana. He was granted an early hearing and exonerated, only to have the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) intervene and ban him for four years.

Returning to Bajrang, his troubles have multiplied. To say that wrestling in India has been in the news for the wrong reasons would be an understatement. He was the face of protests against former Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. Although Brij Bhushan is no longer involved in the sport, there is further confusion as NADA did not inform the current leadership of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) about Bajrang’s suspension.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Bajrang Punia 🇮🇳 (@bajrangpunia60)


It is well known that WFI is recognized by UWW, and they are in communication with the world body. At a time when anti-doping agencies are making conscious efforts to curb doping across various disciplines, the Bajrang episode has further complicated matters.

It is uncertain when the ADDP hearing will take place, but Bajrang has garnered negative attention. When an athlete is caught in a doping scandal or refuses to provide a sample resulting in an ADRV, sympathy may be scarce.

Comparing athletes in trouble may not be fair, yet it’s hard not to recall the case of decorated grappler Sushil Kumar. Despite winning two Olympic medals (bronze in Beijing 2008 and silver in London 2012), Sushil is unfortunately remembered for being charged with murder and being imprisoned in Tihar Jail in the capital.

The charges against Sushil Kumar are serious, and he is paying the price for them. While those who knew Sushil the athlete still admire him for the medals he brought home, sympathy for Sushil the man accused of murder, now incarcerated, is minimal. And Sushil himself is aware of this reality.

There’s no denying that Bajrang has been a superstar. His bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics was celebrated, but since 2023, there has been a significant change in his demeanor. Bajrang has spent more time protesting than on the mat. Despite being selected for the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year, there was still sympathy for him from many quarters. However, he performed poorly at the Asian Games, indicating insufficient effort during training.

This trend continued as he fell short again in the March trials, held for the Asian Championship in Bishkek and the Asian Olympic qualifiers a week later. Now, as an athlete under suspension, Bajrang must await the ADDP hearing to determine his fate. Everything seems to be going awry for him at this juncture.