Sports Ministry Could Consider Making an Exception for Dipa Karmakar

Credit: Olympics

Dipa Karmakar continues to find herself in the eye of a storm. Hopefully, this will only be of the kind that is whipped up in a teacup, and will settle down with the possible intervention of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, as well as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), to over-rule a Project Officer’s inclination to stick to the rulebook.

Having just returned to competition after a 21-month ban for testing positive for a banned substance, Higenamine, in an out-of-competition test on October 11, 2021, she has been left confused if she would make it to the Asian Games in Hangzhou next month despite showing that she is still the best gymnast in the country in the trials in Bhubaneswar last month.

It is possible that she finds herself short of fulfilling a bureaucratic requirement. On March 10, 2015, the Ministry had ordained that for events like the Asian Games, only athletes whose performance in the 12 months before the competition matched that of the sixth-place holder in the previous edition would be cleared for participation.

However, there can be exceptions to the rule. The Ministry, which cleared the football teams on current form, can make a similar exception for Karmakar who was out of competition for close to two years. These are not usual circumstances, and it is important to take that into consideration. If necessary, the Ministry can ask coaches, as domain experts, for their views.

There is no doubt that this is a case that can easily be resolved by consulting the right people, rather than depending on someone who reads the rules which do not provide for such absence from and return to sport as in Karmakar’s case. There was time in 2019 when Indian sports officials were willing to take her word on fitness and send her to the World Championships.

Since the Gymnastics Federation of India is not asking for an out-of-form gymnast to be included in the squad, the Ministry can consider making an exception. By all accounts, the 29-year-old Karmakar showed no signs of age or rust in the trials, topping the charts quite comfortably. If it is present form that decides the composition of the squad, the Olympian, a fourth-place finisher in the Vault in Rio, would walk into the team.

India must make every attempt to field the best possible squad across disciplines at the Asian Games. And a lot of stress could have been avoided if national sports federations had got some of these loose ends tied up in conversations with the Ministry officials before selecting the final squad ahead of the July 15 deadline set by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organising Committee.


Back in 2018, the Indian women finished seventh in the team event. And in the individual vault, Pranati Nayak and Aruna Reddy edged out Karmakar to make the final after the three Indians had finished sixth, seven, and eighth respectively. She made up with a heart-warming performance on the Beam, where she finished fifth.

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