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Homechevron_rightSportschevron_rightVinesh Phogat accuses...

Vinesh Phogat accuses WFI chief of attempting to squash Olympic dreams

Vinesh Phogat accuses WFI chief of attempting to squash Olympic dreams

New Delhi: Phogat alleged that the WFI was attempting to prevent her from competing in the Olympic Qualifiers by posing logistical challenges for her support team. The WFI vigorously refuted the accusation made by wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Friday, claiming that she applied after the time for sending entries had passed.

In addition to winning a gold medal in the 50kg division at the 2018 Asian Games, 29-year-old Phogat claimed bronze in the 53kg division in the 2019 and 2022 World Championships. She also expressed her worry of becoming embroiled in a doping case.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said Phogat's request mail (for accreditation of her coach and physio) came on March 18 but by then it had already sent the entries of the players, coaches and medical staff to the world governing body UWW as the registration deadline was March 11.

A WFI official said the federation sent the entries around March 15 after UWW relaxed the deadline a bit on its request because the trials were completed only on the last day of the deadline.

Phogat is eyeing an Olympic quota in the 50kg category in the Asian qualifying tournament next week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

At the selection trials in Patiala, she had also competed in the 53kg category after the authorities allowed her but lost in the semifinals.

"Brij Bhushan and his dummy Sanjay Singh are trying in every way to stop me from playing in the Olympics. All the coaches who have been appointed with the team are the favourites of Brij Bhushan and his team, so it cannot be denied that they may mix something in my water and make me drink it during my match?" Phogat said in a lengthy post on his 'X' page.

"If I say that there could be a conspiracy to trap me in doping, then it will not be wrong."

Phogat alleged that her personal coach and physio were being denied accreditation for the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament starting April 19.

"For the past one month, I have been requesting the Government of India (SAI, TOPS) for the accreditation of my coach and physio. Without accreditation, it is not possible for my coach and physio to accompany me to the competition arena," she said.

"But despite repeated requests, I am not getting any concrete answer from anywhere. No one is ready to help. Will the future of players always be played with like this?

"No stone is being left unturned to mentally harass us. How far is it justified to torture us like this before such an important competition?" she asked.

Making the Federation's stand clear, a WFI official, who did not wish to be named, told PTI that it had no objection if Phogat wanted to travel with her personal coach and physio but she herself has to get the accreditation from the UWW since the deadline to send entries is already over.

"Her e-mail was primarily directed to the ad-hoc panel and the TOPS CEO even as the federation was also marked in it. She sent her request on March 18 but the federation had already registered the support staff by then.

"And, we did not get any directive from the Ministry or SAI that Phogat's coach has to be added to the list. We could have tried, if we had any such instruction. After all, the mail was primarily given to them.

"See, we are allowed to send three coaches for 10 players. Nine coaches are already in Bishkek for the Asian Championship for 30 wrestlers and the same set of coaches will be there for the Asian Qualifier where we will have only five women wrestlers competing. Are three coaches not enough for five wrestlers?

"Why send extra coaches? But if Vinesh wants her personal coach in Bishkek, she can try to get it done from UWW. We have no objection to that."

A WFI source added that the men's freestyle wrestler Deepak Punia, who won a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships had also requested for his personal coach to travel with him. One request for Greco-Roman coach Anil Pandit was also received.

"They had also sent similar mails but we did not have any instruction from the government if they need to be accommodated. It's not that Vinesh is being singled out. We have been fair to all," said the official.

Phogat was one of the three top wrestlers of the country who led a protracted protest against former WFI President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, accusing him of sexually harassing women wrestlers.

After a case was filed against Brij Bhushan by Delhi Police, a local court granted him bail in July.

She wondered if the difficulties she is facing now are due to the protest she led alongside Olympic bronze medal winners Bjarnag Punia and Sakshi Malik.

"Will we face politics even before we go to play for the country because we raised our voice against sexual harassment? Is this the punishment for raising voice against wrong in our country?

"I hope we will get justice before we go to play for the country."

With PTI inputs

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