<
>

7-0 up, six seconds left, Iranian wrestler forfeits amid doping controversy

Aaron Dana for VICE Sports

New Delhi - Iranian Greco-Roman wrestler Behrooz Hedayat got a bit of a rude awakening early on Wednesday morning when drug testers from the National Anti Doping Agency showed up at his team hotel to collect a urine sample. Naveen Agarwal, the director general of NADA, confirmed that Hedayat had been tested.

"There was a situation at the competition yesterday that warranted that a sample be collected," Agarwal said.

The situation Agarwal was referring to started in the semifinal of the men's 87kg Greco-Roman wrestling competition at New Delhi's KD Jadhav Stadium. Hedayat had started his competition strongly, beating World bronze medalist Rustam Assakalov of Uzbekistan in the first round and looked comfortably placed for victory in the semifinal against Azat Salidinov of Kyrgyzstan, whom he was leading 7-0 with about six seconds on the clock.

Spectators watching at the stadium might have been forgiven for their confusion when suddenly Hedayat pointed at his leg and called for medical assistance. After a few minutes, the Iranian got up and declared to the referee that he was forfeiting the match due to injury with a confused looking Salidinov being declared the winner.

Iranian coaches later said that Hedayat suffered a sprained ankle but there were plenty of doubts over the nature of his injury considering he showed little signs of discomfort and left the mat under his own power. He was later observed climbing stairs without any struggle.

Hedayat would later fail to turn up for his bronze medal playoffs and the wrestlers who were supposed to enter repechage didn't show up either, leading to just a single bronze medal being awarded in the event won by India's Sunil Kumar.

By failing to show up for the bronze medal playoffs and forfeiting that contest, Hedayat was technically ineligible to undergo testing for doping. As per norms, only the medal winners of tournaments are expected to undergo mandatory dope testing.

Hedayat's actions came in for a storm of criticism on social media. Just one video, of the final seconds of Hedayat's bout against Salidinov, posted on a popular Iranian wrestling page on Instagram, drew over 33000 views and over 400 mostly unfavourable comments suggesting the Iranian, who had risen to prominence earlier this year with a gold medal at the prestigious Takhti Cup, was looking to avoid being tested.

Asian wrestling council president Daulet Turlykhanov then asked NADA to collect the sample of the Iranian. NADA, in turn, sought his opinion in writing for the same before proceeding with the procedure.

As the organiser of the event, Wrestling Federation of India was required to give the go ahead.

"Normally samples are collected only from the medal winners of international competitions. But NADA asked us if they could collect the sample of the Iranian wrestler and we agreed to their request," WFI secretary Vinod Tomar said.

Despite the unseemly affair, there was little stopping Iran's march at the Asian Wrestling Championships with the country's ten-member strong Greco-Roman contingent winning five golds, one silver and three bronze medals between themselves to clinch the team championships.