Vinesh Phogat accuses WFI of trying to end her Olympic dream

Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh is a two-time World Championships bronze medallist. File photo: AFP/Sajjad Husssain

New Delhi: Wrestler Vinesh Phogat on Friday accused the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) of trying to stop her from competing in the Olympic qualifiers by creating logistical hurdles for her support staff, a charge vehemently denied by the federation which claimed that she applied after the deadline to send entries had expired.

The 29-year-old Vinesh, who won 53kg bronze medals in the 2019 and 2022 World Championships besides a gold in the 2018 Asian Games (in 50kg), also said she is fearful of being trapped in a doping case.

The WFI said Vinesh'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 United World  Wrestling (UWW) as the registration deadline was March 11.

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

Vinesh 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 she lost in the semifinals.

"(Former WF chief) Brij Bhushan (Sharan Singh) 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?" Vinesh said in lengthy post on her 'X' page.

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

"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. 

"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, said that it had no objection if Vinesh wants 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.

A WFI source added that the men's free style 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.

Vinesh was one of the three top wrestlers of the country who led a protracted protest against Brij Bhushan, accusing him of sexually harassing women wrestlers.

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

Vinesh 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."

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