World Championships silver medallist Amit Panghal has been nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the country's highest sporting honour by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), despite the uncertainty over his eligibility.
Panghal, 24, was nominated for the Arjuna award for the past three years, but wasn't considered by the selection committee because of a 2012 doping offence. The doping violation took place when Panghal was undergoing treatment for chicken pox in his youth category days as a 16-year old. The stipulations for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award state that sportspersons who have been penalised or against whom an enquiry is pending or ongoing for use of banned substances are not be eligible for the award.
However the BFI said they would continue to nominate Panghal, the defending Asian Games champion and the current world no.1 in the 52kg category "He is our star boxer, performing consistently for the past three years, so we have to acknowledge him. It is more of a principle. Based on performance, the committee has recommended him for the award," BFI executive director RK Sacheti said.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna also requires athletes to submit an undertaking stating they have never been penalised for unfair practises like age fraud or doping. While the fact that Panghal had to sign the application is problematic, the BFI said they have asked the government to make an exception. "It is a difficult situation. We have already requested the government to modify it (the rules) for his application. He committed the offence when he was very young. He has already served his ban and since then has represented the country with no offence. He has won medals at the highest level. We should let the matter be now. He is one of the best boxers in the country. He has qualified for the Olympics and he is the world no. 1 boxer. We expect him to win a medal. How can we not nominate him?" Sacheti said.
Panghal too is hoping for a reprieve. "Everyone forgives the mistakes you made at the youth level. I didn't do it intentionally. I only took a medicine prescribed to me without knowing the consequences. I am hopeful I will be considered," Panghal told PTI.
Apart from Panghal, World bronze medallist and Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist Vikas Krishan was also nominated for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. The BFI also nominated world bronze-winning trio of Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Simranjit Kaur (64kg) and Manish Kaushik (63kg) for the Arjuna awards. Of these, Borgohain has won Worlds bronze twice, the most recent being last year. For the Dronacharya awards, the BFI has finalised the names of national women's coach Mohammed Ali Qamar and assistant coach Chhote Lal Yadav.