New Delhi: The selection of the Indian boxing team for the World Championships gave rise to another controversy in Indian sports on Thursday, when three boxers alleged that some of the coaches and a section of the selection committee accepted bribes to drop them from the Kazakhstan-bound squad.
While the three boxers – Dinesh Kumar (91 kg), Dilbag Singh (69 kg) and Praveen Kumar (+91 kg) – held a press conference in Patiala and threatened to take the selection committee to court, the sports ministry in Delhi has expressed unhappiness over the development.
“We are aware of the disturbing developments and keeping track of things,” said secretary, sports, PK Deb. “We shall be asking for a full report from the director general, SAI (Sports Authority of India). We might intervene if it is needed.”
The Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) is currently under suspension from both the international body (AIBA) and the sports ministry for alleged manipulations in its election last year. The boxers will take part in the World Championships under the AIBA flag.
The controversy started when Asian Games silver-medallist Manpreet Singh (91kg), Asian Championships silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra and reigning national champion Satish (+91kg) were picked ahead of the three boxers, who alleged foul play in selection.
The three dissenting boxers were beaten in exciting open trial bouts on Wednesday in front of a packed hall of fellow boxers and a selection panel, which included veterans such as Mehtab Singh and Padam Bahadur Mal, besides Indian Boxing Federation secretary general Rajesh Bhandari. Dinesh, however, claimed that he had won the bout but was cheated of victory.
“We will take the selection committee to court for this unfair decision,” Dinesh said.
An 11-time national champion and former Commonwealth champion Dilbag said that Olympian and Arjuna Award winner Akhil Kumar, who has mentored Mandeep, was behind his name being struck off.
“The coaches and the selection committee are compromised. They have been bribed. Akhil is behind this. I had won the bout but I have been unfairly treated because I do not appease the coaches,” a furious Dilbag alleged.
“I am being unfairly targetted since 2009. I just want the trial results to be made public,” he said.
Akhil, in turn, said he would take Dilbag to court for defamation. “I will file a case against him for defaming me. My integrity has been questioned and I would not take it lying down,” said the former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist.
Bhandari said the allegations were unfortunate. “They are being immature because the trials happened in front of everybody.
“Everybody could see who won and who lost. There is absolutely nothing to hide. But still we would hear them out and try to address their grievances,” he said.
“But dragging a fellow boxer into this is not fair because he also has a reputation to protect,” he added, referring to Akhil.
Infuriated by the allegations, national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said he was hoping that the boxers would come to their senses.
“They have participated in several events with the same coaches against who they are making these allegations now. Disappointment is okay, but to question the integrity of people like this is totally uncalled for,” he said.
The IBF was suspended last year with the AIBA citing two reasons for the drastic step. One being India’s suspension from the IOC and the other being “possible manipulation” in the IBF elections.
The Indian boxers have been allowed to compete internationally so far under the AIBA flag, but officials have been completely barred from any event.
At its annual meeting held in July, at Jeju Island in Korea, the AIBA executive committee had asked the IBF to hold elections within three months. They have time only till November 4.
If the elections are not held, then Indian boxers will not be allowed to compete in any international meet after the World Championships.