New Delhi: Indian woman boxer L Sarita Devi was on Wednesday handed a one-year ban by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for refusing to accept her bronze medal at the Asian Games but the punishment is unlikely to hurt her career too badly as she would be available to compete in the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
Sarita, who had refused to accept the medal to protest her controversial semifinal bout loss, has been banned retrospectively from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2015 and fined 1000 swiss francs.
Although her repeated apologies failed in getting her AIBA's pardon, even this ban is quite a relief for the lightweight (60kg) boxer, who is currently nursing a broken right wrist.
"I am hugely relieved and would like to thank the boxing fraternity and Boxing India for helping me sail through the difficult times. I will now be able to participate in the Olympic Games and work harder to bring laurels for the country," Sarita said in a statement after the announcement of AIBA's decision by Boxing India.
"The ban period starts from the day of medal ceremony, that is October 1, 2014. It is a huge relief that all the fears of her being banned for life or her career being over have not come true. She is now available to compete in the 2016 Women's World Championships, which are also the Olympic qualifiers," Boxing India President Sandeep Jajodia told reporters.
"She is out of action till February at least because of the wrist injury and after that she can train like usual and make a comeback once the ban period is over," he added.
Also reprieved was national men's coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, who had been provisionally suspended along with two other coaches, for not doing enough to restrain Sarita. AIBA's disciplinary committee found him not guilty of the charge.
However, India's Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes was not so lucky and was the worst hit by AIBA's ire. The Cuban, who has been attached to the Indian men's team, was banned for two years and fined 2000 swiss francs. His ban is also effective from October 1, 2014.
"Even if we push his case and try to get the punishment minimised, I don't think it will work because he is a veteran coach and should have had a better idea of rules. For Sarita, one can say that she had an emotional outburst after losing the bout but he ought to have shown restraint," Jajodia said.
AIBA's disciplinary committee also banned Sarita's personal coach Lenin Meitei for a year, while suspending her husband Thoiba Singh from the ringside for two years.