New Delhi: Olympic-bound Indian wrestler Sumit Malik has been provisionally suspended after failing a dope test during the recent qualifiers in Bulgaria, a major embarrassment for the country with just weeks left for the Games in Tokyo.
It marks the second consecutive instance of a wrestler being caught in dope net before the Olympics -- the previous being ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics when Narsingh Pancham Yadav had failed one and was slapped with a four-year ban.
Malik, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 125kg category at the Bulgaria event, which was the last chance for wrestlers to earn quotas. The 28-year-old's dream of competing at the event starting July 23 seems as good as over with this.
"The UWW (United World Wrestling) informed the Wrestling Federation of India yesterday that Sumit has failed the dope test. Now he has to give his B sample on June 10," a WFI source told PTI.
Malik has been nursing a knee injury that he suffered during the national camp before the Olympic Qualifiers began at different venues.
He had competed at the Asian Qualifiers in Almaty in April but did not succeed in earning the quota.
He then competed at the Asian Championship at the same venue and returned with a medal-less performance.
However, at the World Olympic Qualifiers in Sofia held in May, Malik earned the quota by reaching the final, which he forfeited due to the same injury.
To let his injured knee heal completely before the Olympics, Malik was also planning to skip the exposure trip to Poland that the WFI had arranged for its Tokyo-bound group.
"He must have taken something unknowingly. Maybe he was taking some Ayurvedic medicine to treat his injured knee and that might have contained some banned substances," said the source.
"But these wrestlers should have been careful, they know the risks involved by taking such medicines," he added.
If Malik's B sample also returns positive, he can be banned from the sport.
He has the right to challenge the suspension but it is clear that by the time hearing takes place and a verdict comes out, he would miss competing at the Olympics.
India earned eight wrestling quotas for the Tokyo edition of the Games with four men and as many women making the cut.