Sumit Malik was one of the athletes unveiling India’s uniform for the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday afternoon. By late evening, it turned out the wrestler might not be able to don the blue jersey himself.
On the day The Indian Express reported that one Olympics-bound wrestler had failed a dope test, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) confirmed that it was Malik. The heavyweight wrestler tested positive for a prohibited substance during last month’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.
United World Wrestling (UWW), the sport’s governing body, provisionally suspended the 28-year-old for six months on Thursday. Unless the UWW expedites the hearing process to finish it before the Games begin on July 23, Malik will not be able to compete in Tokyo. Even if the process is complete by then, his chances to compete look slim. And since the failed test occurred during a qualifying tournament, India will consequently lose the 125kg weight category quota.
WFI secretary VN Prasood said they were informed about Malik’s alleged doping violation on Thursday night.
“We received communication on Thursday night that Sumit’s sample collected during the Olympic qualifying tournament had returned positive. The UWW has provisionally suspended him and India has also lost its quota in that category. It is unfortunate,” Prasood said.
The grappler, a product of New Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium, had won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and silver at the Asian Championship the year before.
Malik, who did not comment when contacted, tested positive for a stimulant called methylhexanamine. One of the first cases reported on the use of this drug involved Yohan Blake. The sprinter was one of the five Jamaican athletes who tested positive for the substance in 2009.
Since then, hundreds of athletes, including several at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, have tested positive for the drug since it was commonly found in supplements. Once used as a nasal decongestant, the drug helps athletes increase their metabolic rate and make the weight reduction process easier.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has classified the drug as a ‘specified’ substance, meaning that if the athlete can prove the use was unintentional, he can get away with a reduced sanction.
Malik was among eight Indian wrestlers who had qualified for the Olympics. He did so by reaching the final of the last qualifying tournament held in Sofia, battling an injury and essentially grappling on one leg.
Heading into the tournament, Malik claimed he had been nursing a knee injury that he suffered during the national camp. The pain, he said, was one of the reasons he hadn’t been able to secure a quota at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan in April.
Weeks later, he reached the final of the qualifiers in Bulgaria and booked the quota. However, he conceded the final citing the same injury. Malik was one of the wrestlers set to compete in a ranking tournament in Warsaw, Poland, later this month. However, his name has been withdrawn from the squad.
This is the second-straight Olympics where an Indian wrestler has failed a dope test. In 2016, Narsingh Yadav, who had qualified in the 74kg category, could not compete at the Rio Games after he, too, tested positive weeks before the opening ceremony.